The FDA wants to exercise its nanny power by banning menthol cigarettes in another futile bid to protect people from themselves but law enforcement warns that "prohibition will spur smuggling, counterfeit cigs and other organized crime" as reported by Dan Mangan for CNBC. Paul Carey III, chief of enforcement for the Northern Virginia Cigarette Tax Board, says "the contraband market would thrive under a ban, and would increase criminal activity, including activities by organized crime and terrorist groups."
The profit margin for organized crime from contraband tobacco has surpassed the drug trade according to a recent report by the Virginia State Crime Commission as reported by Frank Green for the Richmond Times-Dispatch: "drug dealers are switching to cigarettes because there is plenty of money to be made, less violence and the penalties if caught are much lighter."
Last year CNBC ran the documentary Cigarette Wars which claimed the United States "loses $5 billion in tax revenue every year from the trafficking of illegal cigarettes" as reported by Brian A. Shactman:
The crime has several variations, but it's extremely simple. The most common way: Buy cigarettes in a low-tax state and sell them in a high tax state. The tax disparity is straight profit. * * * Historically, the crime is considered a common racket executed by the mafia. But in 2011, the criminals range from gangs to terrorist groups. There are cases of illegal cigarette sales with ties to groups like Hezbollah and the Irish Republican Army.
Virginia has among the lowest tax rates in the county for the smokey treats, and its cigarettes have flooded the black market in states like New York which impose much higher taxes.