Rhode Island boasts the second-highest cigarette tax in the nation, but following a recent increase in the rate, it seems that the high levy may be creating more problems than it solves.
Already a target for smugglers illicitly selling untaxed cigarettes purchased outside the Ocean State, local news station WPRI reports that a downtown Providence convenience store is now being forced to close after being busted for — you guessed it — selling untaxed cigarettes to buyers looking to avoid high-priced smokes.
WPRI’s report notes that the station had been tracking this story for “years,” suggesting that for some time, the state was losing out on revenue owed due to Richmond News’ unwillingness to pay the tax and its customers’ evident enthusiasm for avoiding it.
In June, Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee vetoed a bill that would have imposed tougher, non-criminal penalties on children caught smoking, citing as a reason that it did not deal with the issue of illegal cigarette sales.
Stories like this suggest that the recent tax increase signed into law by Chafee, and its predecessors, may have exacerbated that issue by prompting more illicit behavior in the form of smuggling and sales of contraband cigarettes, which appeal to both minor and adult smokers.