In July, the cigarette sales tax in Tennessee went up 42 cents and a short time later officials launched a surveillance program to catch anyone trying to smuggle in more than two cartons of cheaper cigarettes from Kentucky.
That surveillance program came to a halt and one Kentucky business owner says he's glad to hear the program has ended
Mike's Seven Eleven owner Bill Wilcox thinks most of his Tennessee customers are complying with the two-carton limit when they buy cigarettes with less tax here in Middlesboro, but he thinks the surveillance program to catch illegal smugglers was a bad idea from the start.
“If you try telling the public something they can't do, they're going to try it that much more,” Bill Wilcox said.
Surveillance along the Kentucky-Tennessee border started in late September. Now it's being suspended, because Tennessee Revenue Department officials say the program has served its purpose.
“The department wanted to educate Tennesseans about the quantity of cigarettes that they could purchase in neighboring states, and we felt like we've accomplished our goals,” Sophie Moery said.
The surveillance did result in confiscating some illegal purchases, but no arrests. Wilcox says he thinks nixing it is great news...and not just because it's good for business.
Even though officials say most people aren't breaking the purchasing law...Wilcox believes some illegal activity could flourish.
“It'll open up some black market to neighborhoods, if individuals can get enough across to make it worth their while,” Wilcox said.
Tennessee officials say they still reserve the right to conduct searches.
Officials say right now there are no plans to put a surveillance program back in place.