Smuggling cigarettes

NORTHWOOD, Iowa –  Dan Sitch owns  DS liquor store in North Iowa, that’s not far from the Iowa Minnesota border, so he sees lots of customers passing through, and sometimes, they see an extra item they’re interested in buying besides alcohol.

“Well we do ok a little bit here and there it’s mostly a convenience thing most people put their bottle on the counter and go “Oh as long as I’m here get me a pack of these,” said Sitch.

And while cigarette sales don’t bring in piles of money for him, Sitch says those stopping in from out of state, are happy customers.

“If anything it helps because Minnesota is a lot more expensive so I get a lot of comments from people in Minnesota “oh my god they’re cheap here” I’ll buy them here and that kind of thing,” said Sitch.

A recent study confirms this is no surprise.

Ever since cigarette taxes in many states have gone up, buying them cheaper in other places is turning into a trend.

But Cerro Gordo County Sheriff Kevin Pals says luckily it’s not a problem that he’s seeing.

“Well we’ve never had a lot of it our area that’s more usually in the big metro areas and that would be dispersed into the rural Iowa into Northern Iowa, we are not close enough into state lines necessarily that it was a huge thing,” said Pals.

Pals says even though his deputies aren’t seeing the smuggling, it doesn’t mean it’s not happening.

“The first reason is they can avoid taxation so they can get really less expensive tobacco products usually the smoking cigs but just chewing tobacco, it’s a money thing,” said Pals.

But Sitch says, the way he looks at it, it’s just what’s cheaper across the border game.

“I mean I guess if that’s what you want to call it they’re just looking for the cheaper price so if I lived on that side of the border I’d probably do the same thing,” said Sitch.

If you were wondering: New York state is the highest net importer of smuggled cigarettes meaning more people bring cigarettes in from out-of-state than anywhere else.

And that would make sense, as New York also has the highest cigarette tax at $4.35 a pack.

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