Transporting contraband cigarettes in Maryland is currently a felony, which is punishable by a maximum $50-a-carton fine and two years in prison. Possessing contraband cigarettes is a misdemeanor that carries a $1,000 fine and a maximum of one year in prison.
“Raising the taxes on cigarettes without tightening the enforcement on smuggling is going to lead to more problems,” Kim Frum, spokeswoman for Democratic Comptroller Peter V.R. Franchot, told The Gazette recently. “These are very lucrative smuggling operations.”
Mr. DeMarco said that aside from large-scale smuggling, he thinks the stories of regular consumers driving across the border to buy cigarettes and other items are overplayed.
He said reduced cigarette sales in Maryland have more to do with its residents quitting smoking. He says studies have shown that smoking has dropped by 32 percent in Maryland since 1999, which exceeds national trends.
“People aren’t going to spend $4 in gas to save $1 on the cigarette tax [in another state],” he said. “There will be a little bit of that, but ultimately you’re going to have fewer people smoking.”