Bringing cigarette-tax stamps back would raise money, fight crime

Legislators are trying once again to curb cigarette smuggling, both into and out of North Carolina, by re-establishing a stamp on cigarette packs. This year, the odds look better than in the past, and that is good.

North Carolina has long had one of the lowest state cigarette taxes. Because of that, organized crime and terrorist organizations have bought cigarettes here and resold them illegally in high-tax states. In recent years, cigarettes have also been smuggled into North Carolina, costing the state tax revenue.

Revenue officials and law enforcement would like a tax stamp on the bottom of packs to make it harder to sell them elsewhere. The legislature removed the stamp in 1993, when, with a state tax of only 5 cents per pack, the stamp was considered more trouble than it was worth.

Rep. Bill McGee, a Republican from Forsyth County, is behind the latest effort to put the stamp back on North Carolina cigarettes. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. and Philip Morris U.S.A. are supporting his effort. But the state’s politically powerful wholesalers and distributors oppose the bill. They say it will hurt them.

The bill should pass for two very good reasons. North Carolina should be doing everything in its power to help law-enforcement efforts in other states and in the federal government as they fight both organized crime and terror groups. The huge money made by cigarette smuggling goes to nefarious purposes. The absence of that stamp helps the criminals.

And our state loses at least $1 million a year in cigarette taxes without the stamp.

Finally, if we’re going to have a law on the books — in this case a cigarette tax law — the state should do all that it can to enforce it. It is counterproductive to levy the tax and then not take all necessary steps to collect it.


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