BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Cigarettes smuggled across state lines are costing the state of Maryland big bucks. Now officials are cracking down.

Meghan McCorkell has more on the growing problem.

The U.S. Justice Department estimates states are losing $5 billion a year due to smuggling cigarettes. The crime is now more lucrative than smuggling cocaine or heroin.

Surveillance video has been released of ATF agents patrolling the Maryland/Virginia border, the new smuggling ground for black market cigarettes. Criminals are going south to low cigarette tax states and loading up. Then they illegally sell them in high tax states, like Maryland.

“The amount of money is phenomenal. It’s tens of thousands of dollars in any particular run that someone may make,” said Jeff Kelly, Maryland Field Enforcement.

Virginia has the lowest cigarette tax, at just 30 cents. Maryland charges $2 a pack, New Jersey is $2.70 and New York has the highest rate, at $4.35 a pack.

Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot is tackling the problem head on.

“Be careful because our officers are blanketing the borders,” he said.

Prince George’s County has already busted nine people last month for cigarette smuggling.

Franchot says they’re hurting people who legally sell cigarettes.

“We’re protecting Maryland businesses that are paying their taxes and doing the right thing,” he said.

Every pack of cigarettes has a stamp marking where it was sold. Just one carload smuggled in could rake in $30,000 in illegal profits.

“It’s a felony to bring more than two packs of cigarettes into the state of Maryland without a Maryland stamp on it,” said Franchot.

And it could net you two years behind bars.

Cigarette smuggling has been linked to major criminal organizations and violent gangs.

In the past few years, Maryland has confiscated more than 328,000 cartons of illegal cigarettes, worth more than $2.4 million.

Comments (16)
  1. Gene says:

    The state has caused this issue by continuing to gouge the public with higher and higher taxes. The total tax on one pack of smokes is roughly $3 Fed and state, and the state is about to or has already raised it another $1. It is out right thieft! F U state of MD and shame on you WJZ for not having the B***s to state the real problem

  2. Argh says:

    If the state is going to impose high taxes on something people are legally addicted to, they should expect this. It is entrapment on a huge scale.

  3. ED says:

    like anything else buy cheap, hey Marland is to exspensive to do bussiness……..

  4. Leonard says:

    Though I’m not a smoker myself; I agree with all of you here. Rediculous taxes creates a black market with anything. It’s no different than the 15 cent increase with the gas tax.

  5. sheriff says:

    Anbody who smokes legally or illegaly is one dumb M…f’r. They should witness a loved one dying from lung cancer…..Not pretty.

    1. baltimore resident says:

      and it is their choice to do it

  6. Brad says:

    The real criminals are the politicians who have imposed such insane amounts of taxes on a simple pack of cigarettes (along with everything else). How long before they start taxing the population for air? Their logic will be that the laws imposed clean the air so they should be able to tax it. This great country of ours is on a fast path to self destruction!

  7. Squaregrouper says:

    “It’s a felony to bring more than two packs of cigarettes into the state of Maryland without a Maryland stamp on it,” said Franchot. THAT is the very definition of cruel and unusual punishment. I buy a carton of cigarettes in Virginia and smoke them in Maryland I am committing a felony- Ridiculous!!!

    1. KottaMan says:

      I couldn’t agree with you more. Two pack threshhold is not ridiculous. It is an obscenity.

    2. MD iS A JOKE says:

      I am currently in South Carolina now, and dont worry I plan on bringing back more than two packs for myself when I stop in NC, hope they arent waiting for me at the border! Dumba**es MD SUCKS!

  8. cc says:

    Maryland is ridiculous. I travel to North Carolina at least twice a month to see my mother and I always bring 2 cartons of cigarettes back. I hope to leave here within the next 2 years. I am applying for jobs down there. I am so ready to leave Baltimore, Maryland.

  9. Larry says:

    Did they change the law? An uncle that worked in the Comptrollers office for Goldstein and Schaefer had told me that 2 cartons was considered personal use and was legal, now Franchot is saying no more than 2 packs. I can’t wait to get out of this state. Only 9 more years ’til retirement and I’m out of here to a nice tax-free state!

  10. KottaMan says:

    A two-pack threshhold is not ridiculous. It is an obscenity. This makes anyone bringing one carton into MD a felon. There is something RADICALLY wrong with this picture.

  11. MD iS A JOKE says:

    The real winners here are the states that have low taxes!

  12. PO PO PO says:

    While you are watching the border for smokes how about stopping some illegals? But wait maryland probably has a law against asking them any qustions.

  13. baltimore resident says:

    so how do they know you are bringing them in? what do they have spies following maryland cars around the south, and when they buy smokes tail them to the border so O’malleys gestapo can check them. I can see it now they stop you and in their best Russian accent say..your papers please.. comrade your papers are not in order…take him away!!!