By Michael Felberbaum
Reynolds American Inc. is inviting lawmakers, law enforcement officials and others to take a trip along “the New Tobacco Road,” where organized criminals are garnering huge profits for smuggling cigarettes and selling them on the black market with a quick drive along the East Coast’s major interstate.
The owner of the nation’s second-biggest tobacco company launched a website Thursday aimed at raising awareness of cigarette trafficking, which is estimated to cost states $5.5 billion annually in lost tax revenue. Reynolds said it hopes the site with studies and news reports will help illustrate that cigarette smuggling isn’t a victimless crime and provide governments with information about stiffening penalties and increasing enforcement.
Most of the smuggling is taking place along Interstate 95, which the maker of Camel and Pall Mall cigarettes has dubbed “the new Tobacco Road.” Low excise taxes have made states like Virginia and North Carolina — home to the nation’s top cigarette makers, including R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. — an attractive base for smugglers because trafficking enough cigarettes can lead to enormous paydays.