PORTLAND – A woman in Washington sells them out of the trunk of her car, and a man in Virginia admittedly hired a hitman over a disagreement related to the smuggled substance. Friends have friends send them across state lines, and a growing number of illegal shipments from Asia are making their way to the United States.
Narcotics? Military weapons? Nope.
We're talking cigarettes. Smokes. The little white sticks so cool in old movies and advertisements but now widely acknowledged as poisonous, cancer causing agents and the ultimate deterrent to good health.
High cigarette taxes, intended to discourage the unhealthy habit and raise state revenue, have created a black market for cigarette sales across the country — from people sneaking cartons from states with lower taxes to a crime-plagued industry fueled by an influx of international cigarettes costing as little as 20 cents per pack.