Tennessee Police Cracking Down on People Crossing Border to Buy Cigarettes

(WVLT) - Since the tax on a pack of cigarettes in Tennessee tripled in July, many East Tennessee smokers have been crossing into Kentucky to save some money.

But, officials say if you come back into the Volunteer state with too many cigarettes, you could be breaking the law.

Jeff Allen has the details.

The owner of Mike's 7-11 in Middlesboro Kentucky says business has increased since Tennessee's cigarette tax went up.

"People in Tennessee are buying their tobacco over here, and you can't blame them," says owner Bill Wilcox.

But Wilcox says even though business is booming, he worries about his customers.

"I'm not going to stop them, they can take their chances, but I'm afraid it's going to get some of them," he said.

One of his customers is Kathleen Hall, who lives about 20 minutes away from the 7-11 in New Tazwell, Tennessee.

She says it's not unusual for her to buy two to three cartons but Tennessee Revenue officials say buying over two cartons and taking them across state lines is illegal.

"If they see someone with a Tennessee tag buying more than two cartons of cigarettes coming back into Tennessee, that person is subject to search and seizure under tennessee law," says Sophie Moery with the Tennessee Department of Revenue.

"I buy two or three," said Hall.

When asked if she's nervous driving back now that Tennessee officials are watching, she replied "No, I won't be."

Tennessee revenue officials say they're not trying to target just your average smoker.

"We're really not going after your average citizen who just wants to save money on cigarettes. We're going after people who are trying to smuggle and sell," said Moery.

Tennessee revenue officials say driving more than two cartons back into Tennessee is considered a misdemeanor, while taking more than 25 cartons back is a felony offense.

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