Washington Finds That Having the Highest Cigarette Tax in The Neighborhood Breeds Smuggling


Reason 24/7

Shocking news! Washington state officials have discovered that hiking taxes on cigarettes way above that inflicted on the residents of neighboring states gives people reason to buy smokes in bulk across the border and peddle them to bargain hunters. Who ever would have guessed? Well, aside from anybody with a brain, that is.

From Northwest Watchdog:

Washington has a smuggling problem, exacerbated by a large tax gap with its neighbors.

The state's tax on cigarettes is $3.02 a pack, compared to $1.18 in Oregon and 57 cents in Idaho. In the border cities of Washington, the ease of hopping the state line for cheaper smokes is just too tempting for some.

Washington's Department of Revenue estimates the state lost about $376 million in tax revenue in 2012 to cigarette tax evasion. An estimated 35 percent of the cigarettes in Washington are contraband.

Washington officials are flabbergasted, of course. A representative of the liquor board's enforcement division suggests that Oregon and Idaho should raise their taxes to make smuggling less enticing. Uh huh. Because nobody would ever think to drive a truck another state or two further. Or to run cigarettes in from China and Mexico, which are already big sources of smuggled smokes.

Nationally, cigarette smuggling is a big business, largely because taxes have been hiked sky-high in a nanny-state effort to deter smoking. Putting the emphasis on neo-prohibitionism rather than revenue has resulted in 60.9 percent of cigarettes consumed in New York being sourced from the black market. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (that's a party!) says state governments lost $5 billion in 2010 because Americans preferred to purchase black market cigarettes rather than get mugged by the authorities.

State officials could lower cigarette taxes to take the profit out of smuggling, but they'd rather use the tax code to send a message. That message seems to be that going to the black market is a great way to save a buck — or make a mint.

Follow this story and more at Reason 24/7.

Spice up your blog or Website with Reason 24/7 news and Reason articles. You can get the widgets here. If you have a story that would be of interest to Reason's readers please let us know by emailing the 24/7 crew at, or tweet us stories at @reason247.

NEXT: CO Judge: Anti-Gun Politicians Must Face Recall Vote

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Unfortunately, Seattle is not a border city. And the better online sources that I was using suddenly shut down a few years ago (, for instance) and it sure smelled like it was government pressure that got to them.

    Fuck cigarette taxes. In college a pack of Marlboros was $2.

    1. Yeah but in real dollars that’s like $12 isn’t it?

      1. he’s saying he is ancient.

        A Mustang was like $350 when he was in college.

        1. The horse, not the car!

          1. How much carpower did the horse have?

            1. 0.0024

        2. When grandmama whose age is eighty
          In night clubs is getting matey with gigolo’s,
          Anything Goes.

    2. Can’t you just go to Puyallup?

    3. I remember buying a can of Skoal for .79.

    4. $2 a pack? Kid, when I ran a store, I sold them for 55 cents. And I bought them at the PX on the Army base nearby for $3 a carton (no state or federal tax on PX items).

      1. I assume you also ran off Indians?

        1. While walking up the hill, in the snow, both ways.

          1. That’s a lot of work for smokes.

            Damn, I could use some nicotine.

      2. I was in the Army in 1972, stationed at Camp Humphreys in South Korea. I smoked at the time. Cigarettes cost $0.19 per pack in the PX.

        I quit smoking while stationed in Korea. If I had realized how much cigarettes would escalate in price, I never would have quit. What was I thinking?

  2. I don’t smoke so I don’t pay too much attention to this, but doesn’t Washington have a ton of Indian reservations that can sell tobacco at a tax discount anyway? Why would anyone need to smuggle smokes from out of state?

    1. Back when I was back near an indian reservation, many of my friends would head there on the weekend to pick up their smokes.

  3. Washington’s Department of Revenue estimates the state lost about $376 million in tax revenue in 2012 to cigarette tax evasion.

    This is the shittiest of all arguments one could make. How dare you act in your own financial interests and buy cigarettes at a cheaper price from elsewhere?

    1. How dare you act in your own financial interests and buy cigarettes at a cheaper price from elsewhere?

      You selfish pig. Washington needs that money to pay the pensions of their public servants. I can’t believe you don’t want to pay your fair share.

    2. [the state lost about $376 million in tax revenue]

      I hate that construction. It implies the revenue belonged to the state in the first place. It should be the state failed to extort about $376 million of the people’s money.

      Right in there with “gun buybacks.”

      1. Consumers saved $376 million.

  4. I like these sorts of stories as I see it as the corrosion of respect for government continuing.

  5. Obviously this means Washington’s DOR needs to create an undercover team and send them across the border to scope out who’s buying large amounts of cigarettes. And set up license plate readers. And infiltrate the smuggling gangs, even if that means turning a blind eye to torture and murder in order to keep an eye on smuggling activities.

    Oooh! Even better, create a “Washington State Department of Customs and Border Patrol”. That way they can set up roadblocks and search with impunity anyone within 100 miles of WA’s borders.

    1. And infiltrate the smuggling gangs, even if that means turning a blind eye to torture and murder in order to keep an eye on smuggling activities.

      Driving into work a few weeks ago, the Proletariat Radio mentioned the Bulger case was getting going. I pointed out to my progtard friend/carpool that, the story wasn’t that a mob boss was on trial, the story is that the FBI let him have a bunch of people killed and tortured, and told him people he could go after.

      Proletariat Radio somehow forgot to mention that.

      Absolutely atrocious “journalism”.

      1. Yeah I love explaining to people that Bulger is who they based Jack Nicholson’s character in The Departed on.

  6. The 60% black market cigarettes in NYC is my favorite statistic of late. Sure, crank that tax up more, that way you’ll get more revenue from it!

    1. All my NYC friends are just so fucking shocked when I tell them I pay no more than $5.50 for a pack of reds here in California. They tried to raise the tax by $1 last June (Prop 29), but failed. So California’s tax on tobacco still remains lower than 32 other states, and I also never thought I’d be talking about taxes in California being lower than anything.

  7. “The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (that’s a party!)”

    According to their Web site, they’re the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms *and Explosives.*

    (yeah, the Web address doesn’t reflect the full acronym)

    Unlike the bad tip I gave you last time, this one is rock solid!

    1. It’s been said often that BATF should be a corner store!

    2. Ha, even the article you linked to says “and Explosives.”

      And I didn’t ask you to rely on a YouTube video!

    3. Can’t have a real party without fireworks.

  8. Isn’t it cheaper to just roll your own?

    1. The federal government narrowed the gap significantly in the last round of tax increases (at least at the federal level). I believe they raised them by 1000%. Same bill where the banned cloves, the fucks.

      1. Practically the first thing Obama did after the 2009 inauguration was to sign a 1700% tax increase on loose cigarette tobacco (fitty cent a pack on tailor mades). Those fatcats had been avoiding paying their fair share of taxes by exploiting the “roll your own” loophole with Tops and Bugler.

        Most of those millionaires and Billionaires switched to rolling cigs with the now cheaper pipe tobacco favored by grossly underpaid pipe-smoking tenured college professors.

        No one earning less than $250k a year uses tobacco so it wasn’t like Obama broke a campaign promise or anything.

        1. Honestly aside from how its cut, I don’t find all that much difference between pipe tobacco and cigarette tobacco

          1. I love the smell of pipe weed. Cigs, not so much.

            1. Francisco d Anconia| 7.19.13 @ 9:40PM |#
              “I love the smell of pipe weed. Cigs, not so much.”

              I used to smoke tobacco, and I’ll still walk downwind if I see someone smoking.
              Wonderful fragrance!

          2. There is no difference in quality or taste – the cut is a little coarser, just enough to get around the regulation that prescribes the fineness. The tobacco companies are smart, and don’t like to see their customers getting shafted.

            I talked to a company rep who came to a tobacco store one day, a couple of years ago when the tax on the loose tobacco was being debated, and he said they would switch to packing the same tobacco, with a coarser cut, into bags that were labelled “pipe tobacco.”

        2. I worked with a woman that rolled her own when that hit (due to the taxes on a pack of ciggs). She was still a loyal Dem (but somehow, not obnoxious about it). Certainly not making over 250k.

          Still let me bum her smokes now and then.

    2. The tax is on those who are not agile enough to operate a cigarette rolling machine.

  9. This story has to be a mistake. Because government actions never result in unintended consequences.

    When are we going to pass that law defining who can be a journalist, so, you know, this false propaganda stops getting spread around.

    Maybe the dear leader will speak on it later. After all, any black kids killed by cigarettes, they could have been him. And then all of us would never have been saved by his great coming.

  10. Ah, poor babies. I feel so bad for them. But, maybe, not as bad as I did for myself living 30 minutes from Winston-Salem, NC and still having to shell out $5 for a pack of cigarettes.

    Fuck them and fuck all sin taxes directly in the ass with a chainsaw.

    1. Fuck them and fuck all sin taxes directly in the ass with a running chainsaw.

    2. $11 for a pack of cigarettes here in Canada. Redman is like $17 for a pouch. Fucking insane.

      Canadians will never raise any sort of stink about this or about the absurd alcohol tax.

      1. I was charged $2.84 for a can of Warsteiner before tax!

        1. Jebus.

          I used to pay like $20 USD for a 1.5L mini-keg of Warsteiner.

          2.84 for a can? (still worth it)

      2. My (Canadian)step mom, in metro-Detroit, used to smuggle ciggs back from windsor, because they were better than in the US (the beer was, too).

      3. Everything is fucking expensive in Canada. In London, Ontario right now on a road trip, and can’t wait to get back to the states in a few hours.

  11. ‘hiking taxes on cigarettes way above that *STOLEN FROM* the residents of neighboring states’

    Just trying to add a bit of honesty.

  12. If we want government crippled shouldn’t we encourage them to raise taxes on everything to ridiculous heights?

    1. Don’t worry, they don’t need any encouragement, they’re going to do it no matter what you think.

  13. OT: Obama to Detroit: Drop Dead

    SLD, not that there should be a bailout. I look forward to the NYT’s Sunday edition with that headline, though.

    Also, Carney’s glasses look especially punchable there, but it looks like, at this point, he’d welcome being punched in the face as penance for all the lying.

    1. He’s not lying, he’s explaining a different reality.

    2. And I thought Barry was going to say: “If I had a city, it would look like Detroit.”

  14. OT: Obama to Detroit: Drop Dead

    Another good call.

    1. Palin’s Buttplug| 7.19.13 @ 9:40PM |#
      “OT: Obama to Detroit: Drop Dead
      Another good call.”

      Yeah, dipshit, like the “call” that appointed a supposed judge who said; ‘well maybe if I send him this, he can just use some money from the slush fund to, well…’
      Sorry, one more embarrassment that you’re more than happy to spin.
      Go fuck your daddy.

  15. Completely OT, but necessary: No matter how you try, you’ll never be as metal as this.

    1. were those the same kids on America’s Got Talent?

      1. Yes.

        1. I’m not sure, did they get put through to the Live shows? Stern was opposed.

      1. goddam you… I actually liked that.

  16. Brilliant – Lewis Black “Fuck you Texas” to Rick Perry.

    1. New York is a statist shithole.

      Texas may suck, but it’s hands down better than NY.

      And you are a fuckstain.

        1. No. You disgust me.

    2. I love the clip of Perry not knowing what agency he’d cut. Years ago, I read the Illuminatus Trilogy, which warped my mind in untold ways.

      One thing that really struck with me was the President and numerous other politicians being high all the time on a cocktail of amphetimines to stay awake and barbiturates to stop the shakes. And that leading to psychosis and other problems.

      That said, I find Louis Black tiresome a lot of the time.

      On the plus side, it’s nice that we can go back to thinking of New Yorker’s as assholes (all of them) again.

      1. Lewis Black is a self-declared socialist.
        He’s scum.

        1. He is a fucking comedian. I can’t tell what George Carlin was and I don’t care. He was hilarious.

          Lighten up a bit, Francis.

          (Slaughterhouse Five)

          1. Palin’s Buttplug| 7.19.13 @ 10:14PM |#
            “He is a fucking comedian.”

            He’s a fucking idiot like you.
            Go fuck your daddy.

          2. He is a fucking comedian.

            What is the point of an unfunny comedian?

            1. Now one that’s good (and hits too close to home, having done the same thing) is Ron White in Kalamazoo, MI

        2. Yeah, pretty much a fuckup. Fuck you, Lewis Black.

          1. Are you the Asshole from El Paso?

            1. In what fucked-up, mush-mouthed, moonspeak dialect of English does “asshole” rhyme with “El Paso”?

              1. American country music.

                We don’t have no love in’s in el paso

                We don’t go to porno picture shows

                We don’t swap our wives with our neighbors

                And we keep our kids away from mexico.

                And I’m proud to be an asshole from el paso

                A place where sweet young virgins are deflowered.

                You walk down the street knee-deep in tacos


                And the wetbacks still get twenty cents an hour.

                We don’t wipe our asses on old glory,

                God and lone star beer are things we trust.

                We keep our women virgins till they’re married

                So hosin’ sheep is good enough for us.

                And I’m proud to be an asshole from el paso

                A place where sweet young virgins are deflowered.

                You walk down the street knee-deep in tacos


                And the wetbacks still get twenty cents an hour.

                (Kinky F)

                1. Palin’s Buttplug| 7.19.13 @ 10:38PM |#
                  “American country music.”

                  Go fuck your daddy, dipshit.

        3. yes, but I can’t argue with him on waffle house

          Holy shit, you search for “lewis black waffle house” and the first response from google is “Feral Black Males Wreak Havoc at Waffle House Restaurants”

          WTF, man, is there a massive Lewis Black/Socialist contingent at Stormfront I just didn’t know about?

          1. On DuckDuckGo the first link is this gem.

      2. I was expect it to be extremely unfunny, but I was pleasantly surprised. Black had just the right amount of not taking himself seriously to make it work.

        “Remember the Alamo? Neither do we; fuck Texas!” Yeah, I’m going to keep that one in the memory banks.

        1. Heroic Mulatto| 7.19.13 @ 10:16PM |#
          “I was expect it to be extremely unfunny, but I was pleasantly surprised. Black had just the right amount of not taking himself seriously to make it work.”

          I never saw that. What I saw was nothing other than “BUUUUUUUUSH”; dipshit with public access.
          I’d be impressed if he *ever* made a comment re: Obozo. Haven’t seen it.

          1. I was just referring to that particular clip. In general, I can’t stand Black’s “it’s funny because I’m screaming it at the top of my lungs” schtick.

            1. Sam Kinison did it the best.

              Lewis Black is just okay at it.

                1. I miss Sam.

                  Watched that whole thing. Remember where I was the first time I saw it.

                  Thanks SG

                  1. Don’t forget this one. Every time I hear this song I think “this one’s for you, Sammy”.


          2. You guys are so sensitive about Dumbya – GIVE IT A BREAK.

            As hated as Bush was it will all be forgotten by 2020 and the GOP will live strong again.

            1. Palin’s Buttplug| 7.19.13 @ 10:23PM |#
              “You guys are so sensitive about Dumbya – GIVE IT A BREAK.”

              Dipshit, you have nothing *OTHER* than BUUUUSH.
              Go fuck your daddy.

        2. My college roommate was from Alaska. As he liked to say, “Cut Alaska in two and make Texas the third-biggest state.”

          1. Trouble is, where do you divide Alaska so that you have two state that actually have people in them. I guess you could leave Anchorage in one half and Fairbanks and Juneau in the other.

    3. Lewis “Simplicio” Black: “Hurr Durr! Rick Perry is taking out radio ads in the 21st century! Hurr Durr!”

      Sane Person: In America, more people own radios than any other electronic device. If you want to reach the largest audience possible, including business owners, large and small, radio would be your best bet.

      Simplicio: “Hurr Durr! How dare Rick Perry ‘steal’ jobs from Illinois and California! The nerve of him! Hurr Durr!”

      Sane Person: Last I checked, these were independent states, not feudal fiefs. And no one is obligated to do business or employ people in a state against their will.

      Nothing brilliant in this segment. Nothing even remotely sane in it. Lewis “Simplicio” Black sounds like shriek’s drunk, grabby, too-friendly uncle. Hell, Black probably is shriek’s drunk, grabby, too-friendly uncle.

    4. I clicked on the link before I saw who posted it. I kept watching, waiting to hear Black’s rebuttal to Perry’s argument. It never appeared.

      “Fuck Texas. Stay here and get fucked by government because…..uh….New York rocks!” is not an argument.

  17. You guys miss the point of the Lewis Black bit.

    New York loves their FREEDOM. The variety, the openness, the cultural freedom, the late night freedom, the transex freedom, the Wall St freedom, the honest freedom to tell Texas to fuck off.

    It’s the New York libertarians should love.

    1. That they’re all assholes?

    2. The freedom to buy 32oz sodas. The freedom to carry concealed.

    3. They are free to buy food (except for 32 oz sodas), watch baseball, and wear tacky dresses.

      As far as walking down the street without being profiled and frisked, to buy or sell real estate as you choose, smoking within 100 feet of a public building, or committing adultery, that’s just too much freedom for New York.

    4. We must never forget the most important freedom of all: the freedom to do what the relevant majority in any situation approves of.

      1. No one’s saying you can’t drink more than 16 oz of soda at a time, just that you can’t sell it to someone!

    5. Palin’s Buttplug| 7.19.13 @ 10:29PM |#
      “You guys miss the point of the Lewis Black bit.”

      Go fuck your daddy; you have nothing other than BUUUUUSH!

    6. New York loves their FREEDOM.

      Puh-lease. New Yorkers are the biggest fucking pussies on the planet. They are literally terrified of freedom. Why else would they continue to vote for scum like Bloomterd, Cuomo, and Peter King. They want every last detail of their lives, down to their diets determined by Top Men.

    7. The “Stop and Frisk” freedom.

    8. New York loves their FREEDOM.

      If they loved their freedom, they wouldn’t live in New York.

  18. So this is what it’s like to be Browns fan

  19. OT: The left’s reaction to the Zimmerman trial has behind both hilarious and frightening. But Huckabee using the case to lead into a tirade against pornography is one of the most laughable responses I’ve heard

    1. Both extremes are full of idiocy.

      1. Palin’s Buttplug| 7.19.13 @ 11:32PM |#
        “Both extremes are full of idiocy.”

        Dipshit, are you familiar with the phrase tu quoque.
        You should be, diopshit, since you have nothing else to offer

  20. Great Canadian, or Greatest Canadian?

  21. “My (Canadian)step mom, in metro-Detroit, used to smuggle ciggs back from windsor, because they were better than in the US (the beer was, too).?”

    I have a friend who is a BATFE Special Agent in the Seattle field office and he gets his cigs from Canada. No US Tax STAMP . Drives his SAC nuts when he parades them around the office.

    SACs can be anal as hell

    1. So, a federal law enforcement officer tasked with the enforcement of taxes on tobacco parades around his flagrant violation of said taxes in front of his boss AND NOTHING ELSE HAPPENS.

      But there is no double standard.

      1. There;s no violation. It;s entirely legal to take Canadian cigarettes across the border as long as you don’t exceed the allowable limits, which he doesn’t

        That’s the point. It’s ENTIRELY LEGAL, but it pisses his SAC off

        People like you ALWAYS assume the worst about cops. You ASSUME he;s breaking the law and evading taxes. He isn’t. He is following the law, but in a way that pisses his SAC off

        Here;s a website that shows custom allowances

        for ONCE, stop being a bigot, don’t assume the worst about cops, and open your eyes to the real world.

        1. wait
          why would someone be pissed off about a legal transaction?
          is he not right in the head?

          1. Needs more acronyms.

            1. I just like saying “SAC”. It makes me smile

          2. Because he;s an Anal as all fuckall SAC with the BATFE.

            My buddy isn’t bucking for promotion, so he loves doing stuff like this.

            He;s helped me with a few cases and his knowledge of explosives is unbelievable

            1. even if he broke a law though it would be cook right?

              1. “Fellas, it’s too rough t’feed ya”

                Fuck, man, as soon as I finish this beer, I;m going to bed.

  22. Is STAMP an acronym?

  23. Obama’s in such big trouble, Letterman’s doing Dubya jokes again.

    1. Obama could say anything, and his core would still support him.

      “Let me be clear…. these… people… are… jews… and Imabout to throw them in this.. uh… oven… this is not just for my supporters.”

  24. Charles Barkley on the Zimmerman case “I agreed with the verdict”.

    Gotta love Sir Charles. Always the iconoclast.…


    Salon publishes article asking if Eric Holder is Obama’s ‘Inner Nigger.’

    Genius, Salon. Very classy.

    1. Is Holder the president’s aggressive internal mind and voice ? willing to speak truth to power, but unbothered with appearing like an angry black man?

      Another idiot that doesn’t know what “speak the truth to power” means.

    1. NO. If it’s not Rush, it has to be gordon lightfoot. Those are the rules.


        1. Krugersan, I’m sure that was awesome, but there’s a lot of music out there

          1. I never claimed it was the bestestest ever.

            1. Whose fault is that? IMA say here’s some guitar.. it’s pretty good, but not awesome. try and do something fun with it.

            2. I tried again, I stand by ‘Krugersan’

        2. $wife just told me to turn it down. I didn’t even have bubbles as loud as it could go.

          /was listening to bubbles.

            1. Which would be awesome, but I’m listening to liquor and whores

              1. One of my favorites.

          1. “wife just told me to turn it down.”

            Tell your wife to shut the fuck up.

  26. Re: Palin’s Buttwipe,

    You guys miss the point of the Lewis Black bit.

    New York loves their FREEDOM.

    Just like Hades loves their SOULS!

  27. Is it wrong for me to want Emerson Fittipaldi sideburns?

    1. Yes. Go mutton chops.

      you already live in the canadian wilderness, no one is there to judge you.

      mutton chops.

    2. Is that Borat Elvis?

  28. Wow. I just found out the ACLU *OPPOSES* THE dual sovereignty de facto double jeopardy federal prosecution of Zimmerman…..erman-case

    Their stance during the Rodney King trial was a bit more complex, but generally speaking they have come down with the opinion that dual sovereign prosecutions are bullshit.

    For the record, I just finished a busy shift and managed to disarm a knife weilding combative juvenile without shooting him or even tasing him which makes me feel so good.

    This job can be so rewarding. I *love* being a cop.

    Verbal judo works. The most important skill a cop can have is communication skills. Interview technique, rapport building, empathy, etc.

    1. They are bullshit. In the King case you could at least justify it by the defendants being cops. The feds I think do have an interest in trying government officials who are not properly prosecuted by state governments for violating federally protected civil rights. But I can’t see a single instance where the feds should ever be prosecuting a private person after the state already has.

  29. Thankfully I only live 20 minutes from the state line and the liberty of North Idaho. I take great satisfaction every time I pass the WSP sub station with my half price smokes, I like to think I’m taking it out of their paychecks.


    I don’t like her or her website. But give credit where credit is due. Arianna Huffington gets off a brutal and true tweet concerning Obama.

    Obama: Trayvon “could have been me.” True, and so could many still behind bars for drug possession

    1. That is sweet. She was a babe back in the day. Her website is libtard central though. The most sanctimonious people on earth.

  31. No news here.
    This has been going on in Washington for decades.50 years ago I would take orders for cartons and drive to Idaho pick up the cigarettes then distribute them back at the factory in which I worked.

  32. Holy shit, it’s like people prefer to buy products at lower prices or something. Who woulda thunk it?

  33. Washington’s Department of Revenue estimates the state lost about $376 million in tax revenue in 2012 to cigarette tax evasion. An estimated 35 percent of the cigarettes in Washington are contraband.

    No, they haven’t “lost” $376 million any more than the idiotic company I used to work for “lost” $2 million in revenue because their weapons grade-retard plan didn’t come to fruition.

    If WA institutes a $500 per-pack tax, and no one pays it because no one can possibly afford it, the state hasn’t “lost” $40 billion in tax revenue.

    In Paul’s Libertarian Revolution, the Washington State Liquor Control board and all of its little wizards would be the first to stand tall before my hastily convened Kangaroo court.

    1. And they get their choice of two sentences:

      Exile or Death!

      1. In Paul’s Kangaroo court, your choices are:

        or Death.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.