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Report: Wisconsin is 5th-largest importer of smuggled cigarettes

MADISON, WI (WTAQ) - About one of every three packs of cigarettes sold in Wisconsin are either counterfeit, or are not taxed properly.

That's according to the Tax Foundation, which says the Badger State is the nation's 5th-largest importer of smuggled cigarettes.

A new report said 34.6 percent of Wisconsin's smokes were not taxed, were taxed improperly, or were counterfeit. New York is the highest followed by Arizona, New Mexico, and Washington state.

Joseph Henchman of the Tax Foundation blames the new smuggling on a big gap between low tax and high tax states. Three of every five states have jacked up their cigarette taxes to discourage folks from smoking.

Henchman said those policies often have, "unintended consequences that outweigh their benefits."

Wisconsin increased its cigarette tax from 77 cents a pack to $2.52 in the years before Republican Scott Walker became the governor in 2011.

The Tax Foundation said smuggling includes counterfeit tax stamps, fake versions of legitimate cigarette brands, trucks that are hijacked, and officials who look the other way. The report said small time hustlers can make money selling cigarettes for less than the market charges -- while larger operations rob trucks and steal tax stamps.

The Kenosha News says neighboring Illinois has a cigarette tax of $1.98 -- 54 cents a pack cheaper than in Wisconsin. The exception is Chicago, where the tax is a whopping $6.16.

(Story courtesy of Wheeler News Service)