Is cigarette smuggling from MO ($0.17) into IL ($1.98) a problem for IL law enforcement?

Missouri’s state cigarette tax is 17 cents a 20 pack. Next door in Illinois, the tax is $1.98 a 20 pack.

Is there a problem with people smuggling large quanities of cigarettes from MO to IL? Is there any sort of border check at all?

Need answer fast?

Fwiw Certain online vendors have cigarettes for $20 a carton.

I have no idea about enforcement. I also have no idea if buying 20 cartons with an Illinois license sends up red flags either.

There are no border checks inside the United States.

Well, depends on what you mean by “border checks,” but driving into California, there are border inspection stations to safeguard Californian agriculture. Not everywhere, but many of the major road routes into the state have stations where you must stop and they check to make sure you’re not bringing in plant materials that may harbor pests and such.

Not applicable in this case, but this is one instance where I remember encountering something upon entering another state that reminded me of a “border check.”

Minnesota has this problem with the Indian Reservations, where they sell cancer-causing cigarettes without paying the tax, so prices are much lower. Occasionally they position State Troopers on the roads leading to the Reservation/Casino/Smoke Shop and catch people illegally importing cigarettes without a valid tax stamp. Sometimes they have an undercover operation in the Smoke Shop parking lot, to radio license numbers to the troopers out on the road.

Presumably it’s a big enough loss to the state to be worth doing this. It costs the state twice, both in the lost tax revenue, and in the increased health costs of the nicotine-addicted customers.

This is a few years old, but you will probably find it interesting:

Cigarette Taxes and Cigarette Smuggling by State, 2015

According to the chart, 16.6 percent of cigarettes consumed in Illinois were smuggled into the state. The numbers in that chart seem far too precise to me, but I suspect that they are within a few percentage points of reality. Missouri loses 15.4 percent of its consumption to smuggling, so it’s probably a fair bet that most of that is going to Illinois.

So yeah, it’s an issue, but Illinois is nowhere near the worst of the bunch.

More cigarettes are smuggled out of New Hampshire than are actually consumed in New Hampshire.

If you took the Peel ferry from Protem, Missouri to Peel Arkansas, you could not bring booze. Usually it ended up dumped in Bull Shoals lake. (This was when much of Arkansas was dry.)

I can see this happening at a Smoke Shop, but if the purchaser goes to the gas station/convenience store/grocery store/drug store etc. how would the Troopers know what was purchased?

It doesn’t matter where on the Reservation they were purchased, either Smoke Shop, gas station, etc. – if the cigarettes in their vehicle don’t have a valid MN tax stamp on the package, they are contraband.

I’m talking about outside of the Reservation, obviously.

If one goes between Illinois and Missouri, (which is the subject of this thread) the Troopers won’t know what you purchased.

IANAL, but the Illinois cops would need probable cause, and possibly a warrant, to search your trunk.

In what seems to me to be a rather bizarre scheme, Missouri (not Illinois) arrested a man from Justice Illinois for smuggling cigarettes into Illinois and selling them in Chicago.

He set up a small convenience store in Missouri and got a retailer’s tax exemption certificate. He then bought cigarettes tax-free at Sams Club in Missouri and then shipped them to Illinois to sell without paying Illinois or Missouri sales tax.

This whole thing sounds bizarre to me because, if he’s going to get a retailer’s exemption certificate, why bother going all the way to Missouri to get it? And if he had been just a tiny bit less greedy and paid the 17 cents per pack to Missouri, he might have gotten away with it.

When I lived in st. Louis County I often traveled to Illinois via Alton Illinois. The used to be a sign on the bridge w awning that smuggling smokes with out Illinois tax stamps was illegal. I never saw anyone stopped for inspection, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.


Just went through there a few weeks ago and the sign is still there. We were actually quite curious and didn’t realize it was such a big issue. But also did not see any kind of inspection.

How many packs is considered smuggling?

San Clemente is about 70 miles north of the Mexican border.

Ok, I should have said there are no border checks between Illinois and Missouri. :rolleyes:

There is a gas station/store in St. Charles county about 3 miles South of the Alton bridge. It’s certainly possible that there is a “stakeout” of sorts at that location on occasion.

And I’ve never seen a sign at any of the other Missouri/Illinois crossings. I-270, I-70, I-255, Chester etc.

I knew before opening the link that he was foreign. My guess is just lack of familiarity with laws and how law enforcement works, so not knowing how to minimize risk. He also got greedy. 2.7 mill worth of product is not something that can go unnoticed for long.

But thats because its small state, with smaller internal consumption as a result, and the states near by are much larger. Its a bit of a nitpick… What I mean it may not be so much travelling for the purpose of smuggling, but merely buying cheaper goods there while they are travelling for another reason.

This is also my question.