Skip to comments.Tennessee’s 'cigarette police' targeting smugglers, not smokers
Posted on 09/25/2007 3:45:25 AM PDT by don-o
Tennessee officials on Monday said the states surveillance of out-of-state tobacco stores is aimed at illegal contraband coming into Tennessee, not a crackdown on customer choice.
Tennessee Department of Revenue Commissioner Reagan Farr said surveillance will be focused on sites near state lines, such as the Weber City portion of Virginia near Lynn Garden, to snuff out those who bring 20 packs of smokes or more into the Volunteer State.
We really want people to get educated on the law which we have to enforce. That includes the fact that bringing large amounts of cigarettes across state lines without a Tennessee tobacco stamp is illegal, said Farr in a phone interview from his Nashville office.
The expansion of patrols by the Department of Revenues Special Investigation Section comes nearly three months after the tax on a pack of cigarettes in the state increased from 20 to 62 cents.
That hike made cigarettes more expensive in Tennessee than in bordering states like Kentucky and Virginia, where the tax is 30 cents per pack.
Within recent history, it has not made monetary sense for consumers to cross state lines to bring unstamped product into Tennessee because the tobacco costs, cigarette costs, has been similar to the surrounding states, Farr said.
Now that there is a monetary difference, people may be inclined to want to go and purchase and bring unstamped tobacco product into the state. People should know what is allowed beforehand.
Lawmakers in Nashville earmarked the money from the increase in cigarette tax to educational projects, enhancements in agriculture, and aiding trauma centers statewide.
The annual allocation from the tax is slated to reap Tennessee an estimated $195 million.
A person suspected of having more unstamped cigarettes than the law allows risks losing their cargo and their car, according to the investigation unit, which plans to have one agent staked out at bordering states tobacco shops to monitor people with Tennessee car tags.
A published report in The Tennessean states another agent just over the line in Tennessee will be notified and can pull the vehicle over for a legal search, and the automobile and cigarettes can be seized at the officers discretion.
Possession of 20 packs or two cartons of cigarettes without Tennessee tobacco revenue stamps is classified as a misdemeanor, according to the agencys regulations.
Twenty-five cartons or more found in someones possession can lead to a Class E felony being lodged against the suspect, the law reads.
Farr emphasized that the customer who goes over into a neighboring state and buys a pack or one carton will not be scrutinized for breaking interstate contraband regulations.
There is not a problem with bringing a pack of cigarettes without a Tennessee stamp over state lines. That is permissible, said Farr.
This is not intended to be a deterrent to those people buying cigarettes in some other place than Tennessee. This is targeted at larger scale purchasing that has led us to black market and Internet sales within our borders illegally.
There are contraband cigarettes shipped into Tennessee all the time. We have agents who seize and destroy (illegal shipments) all the time.
Addington Oil President and convenience store owner James Howard Addington said Monday that the amount of manpower and money being spent by Tennessee to monitor consumer cigarettes at Virginia stores such as his borders on hilarity.
Thats about the silliest thing Ive heard in awhile. Im glad to see that the crime rate in Tennessee is going down now that they can dedicate officers to a chore like this, he said.
I know (those other businesses) at the state line get a heavier customer base from Tennessee because they are so close, and it decreases a little bit near my place in Weber City. But yes, we do have Tennessee traffic, and they buy cigarettes here.
Are they going to have the state police set up at Kentucky and North Carolina, too? How dumb can we be? You knew when (Tennessee passed the tax increase on cigarettes) that this was going to happen. They want a better price. This is kind of ridiculous for grown adults to monitor this.
Farr explained that tobacco ranks high among state-regulated products, and laws attached to those goods must be enforced.
Its right up there with alcohol and prescription drugs and with any regulated products that have rules that consumers must follow, he said.
You cant go buy a bunch of prescriptions in Mexico and bring them into the U.S. and say I can spend my money wherever I want. The Department of Revenue doesnt make the rules on these types of products; they enforce them.
This is an education process because we dont want to catch unsuspecting consumers who are just not aware of the law and innocently bring in three or four cartons into Tennessee. We dont want to catch the unsuspecting consumer. We want the smugglers.
Last time I read the Constitution, I think it said something about no state having the power to tax exports from another state.
Don’t matter these days as far as the money-grubbers are concerned.
Not that it makes any difference anymore (since it’s already been stretched out of recognition) but does anyone happen to know the exact wording of the “Commerce Clause” in the Constitution??
“A lot of terrorists finance themselves this way.”
You referring to the Dims and their oppressive sin taxes?
Article I, Section 8, Clause 3 of the United States Constitution, known as the Commerce Clause, reads as follows:”The Congress shall have Power ...To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes.”
So ordinary people should be bothered by the revenuers?
Gotta be some pretty low rent terrorist for the profit they could make on this transaction. Note the article said they target is cars with Tennessee plates; not swarthy middle eastern men looking for a foot washing basin
Massachusetts tried this in the recent past with its N.H. border. New Hampshire, being the closest thing around to a free state, sent their state police down to the stores and arrested the MA state police. End of story.
Are you kidding me ? It seems to me that this violates Interstate Commerce protection. Buying a legal product and transporting it across state lines is a crime ?
Not up on my Constitutional law, but I think the “Commerce clause” has been interpreted with enough emanations and penumbras to cover just about anything a judge or justice gets in his mind.
From:Barry Goldwater, The Conscience Of A Conservative, 1960.
In the case that upheld the second AAA, Wickard v. Filburn, (1942), a farmer had been fined for planting 23 acres of wheat, instead of the eleven acres the government had allotted him—notwithstanding that the “excess” wheat had been consumed on his own farm. Now how in the world, the farmer wanted to know, can it be said that the wheat I feed my own stock is in interstate commerce? That’s easy, the Court said. If you had not used your own wheat for feed, you might have bought feed from someone else, and that purchase might have affected the price of wheat that was transported in interstate commerce! By this bizarre reasoning the Court made the commerce clause as wide as the world and nullified the Constitution’s clear reservation to the States of jurisdiction over agriculture.
Michigan law prevents even a single pack of cigs coming into Michigan from another state. The police go to Indiana, and then follow the cars back into Michigan and stop them. It is all about money.
Oh but they HAVE been stamped by the other states. Interstate commerce has been used as cover for all manner of silly lawsuits and federal interference but this is really IS interstate commerce.
Someone needs to move their store behind a hill or a curve in the road - out of the range of the peeping tom police. To protect and serve, etc. etc.
Michigan does about the same thing. I think it hilarious—in order to feed a voracious appetite, a state forces a large segment of its population to become underground “criminals”. That’s really the way to foster civic responsibility, alienating the citizenry. </ sarc>. Now, if we could just spread this to many other areas of living, perhaps the dumb voters would get the true picture of the government monster that has been created.
People don’t seem to realize that everything from fake cigarettes to fake watches fund the likes of Hezbollah and North Korea.