Norfolk, VA - cracking down on illegal cigarette sales..

March 26, 2009 - The City of Norfolk, Virginia is cracking down on illegal cigarette sales that officials say are costing taxpayers millions of dollars.

The city created a task force to inspect convenience stores and tobacco shops selling the unstamped products.

Illegal cigarette sales undermines the potential effectiveness of higher tobacco taxes reducing government revenues and encouraging adults to continue smoke and children (kids) to start smoking cigarettes. The availability of low-cost (cheap)illegal cigarettes has particular implications for vulnerable populations such as young people and the economically disadvantaged.

The effort began last year and 11 stores have been busted in the last month and a half. Not only were illegal cigarettes found, so was drug paraphernalia crack pipes, baggies, scales and code violations, city officials said. One shop owner also is accused of selling Viagra and bootleg CDs. The effort has intensified as the city looks for ways to cut its $35 million budget shortfall, officials say. Norfolk’s commissioner of the revenue says she has seen a 34% decline in the number of cigarette stamps sold to dealers. She believes over the course of the fiscal year the city's lost $750,000.

The task force is made up of city workers, members of the Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Officials say Norfolk is the only city in Virginia with this kind of task force.

Reference: Norfolk cracks down on illegal cigarette sales by 13News, 3/26/2009.