Here is another article in our continuing series about things going on around Rochester.
Two Rochester, NY, men were arrested in Martinsburg, WV, on charges of illegally transporting cigarettes from Virginia to West Virginia.
The men, 54-year-old Roy Brown and 20-year-old Donne Wilson, were stopped by Berkeley Country Sheriff’s deputies on Interstate 81 near the Maryland state line. The Sheriff’s Office had received a report that the men had bought a large amount of tobacco products in Virginia.
Once the vehicle was towed to the sheriff’s office, a search warrant was obtained. Deputies then discovered 160 cartons of cigarettes — valued at around $10,000 — in the car’s trunk.
Brown and Wilson are currently being held at Eastern Regional Jail in Martinsburg.
Virginia is a popular destination for cigarette traffickers, due to the state’s low taxes on cigarettes. An estimated 21% of cigarettes from Virginia end up in other states, especially in areas like New York City, where the cigarettes themselves can be more profitable than heroin.
Brown and Wilson’s arrest comes at a time when many smokers are giving up tobacco in favor of electronic cigarettes, or e-cigs. Current estimates report that approximately 2.5 million people in the United States alone are regular e-cig users, many of whom have used the devices to quit smoking.
While the devices are widely contested, with debates over their health effects prevailing, new research from London, U.K. suggests that their use might help more people quit.
Dr. Peter Hajek, a clinical psychologist from Queen Mary University of London and the study’s author, found that of 650 smokers, nearly 10% of those who used e-cigarettes instead were able to quit tobacco within one year. The study also found that 36% of smokers who began using e-cigs were able to cut the number of traditional cigarettes they smoked in half.
But the devices have yet to stop the issue of cigarette smuggling Virginia to other states and countries.
The Virginia State Crime Commission found that fake retailers without stores often avoid having to pay taxes due to obtaining a Virginia resale certificate, which only demands tax payments when the cigarettes are sold at the retail level.
State lawmakers now want retailers to be licensed in order to sell those cigarettes. They have also recommended lowering the felony threshold level for illegal cigarette possession from 500 cartons down to just 200 cartons.