• United States
  • Virginia

The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives estimates that sales of illegal cigarettes cost government local, state and federal nearly $10 billion a year. For the smugglers, profits are better than those from cocaine, heroin, marijuana and guns, according to a report in September by the Virginia State Crime Commission. Moreover, the penalty for doing it a maximum of five years in jail, under federal law is considerably lighter than for selling drugs. If the smugglers were trafficking in heroin, they would face life in prison.

The growth of the cigarette resale racket, known to police as smurfing , appears tied to a growing government appetite for cash. Since 2007 at least 27 states have raised their cigarette taxes, often to erase deficits or to cover sharp increases in health care costs. This spurs the smugglers on. In New Jersey, where a packet of cigarettes carries a tax of $2.70, about 40% of all cigarettes are smuggled in from other states, according to the New Jersey Treasury Department. Maryland, Virginia s neighbour to the north, reported a fourfold increase in seizures of illegal cigarettes between 2010 and 2012, though one official described the haul as the tip of the iceberg.

Virginia, a big tobacco state since colonial times, has recently declared it illegal to buy and possess, with intent to sell elsewhere, more than 5,000 cigarettes. That may sound a lot, but they are easy to miss. Smugglers can niftily get 600 cartons (that is, ten packs of 20 cigarettes) into a car, and 12,000 into a large van. When gun running was at its peak, I 95 was known as the iron highway . Now it is the new Tobacco Road.

I know its illegal for minors to buy cigarettes, but is it illegal for them to smoke the cigs?

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It’s incredible just how many people are naive with the actual laws. I see these questions all day long, and its just humorous to see the replies.

It is illegal for people under 18 to purchase cigarettes. That’s fundamentally understood. It is also illegal to buy cigarettes for people under 18 if you are of legal age. It is illegal to give a minor a cigarette.

However, in most states (I know this is true in MA), there is no specific law prohibiting a minor from smoking the cigarette. They are therefore allowed to smoke a cigarette, if they happen to have one. There is no legal way to obtain them, but possession of cigarettes is not illegal. Smoking of cigarettes is not illegal by minors, as long as they follow the “rules” (not inside a school, etc).

Actually, it’s sorta how alcohol works. You can’t buy until your 21. You can’t give minors alcohol if you are old enough to buy. You can’t buy for minors. But, most states allow minors to drink if they do so in their house with a parent supervising. How many are willing to take that exception is probably small, but it’s still there. Also, most states allow a minor spouse to drink if their spouse is 21 , but not in a restaurant/bar. Some states further allow minors to drink at family reunions and weddings, as long as it is on private property.

So, basically, someone steals their parents cigarettes and smokes them when they are under 18. The only law they broke was associated with the stealing. After that, no laws were broken.