(Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
NEW YORK (AP) -- New York City's war on smoking is being undercut by light penalties for merchants caught selling cigarettes smuggled in from low-tax states.
Right now, shops that evade the nation's highest cigarette taxes by buying untaxed inventory from bootleggers face fines and penalties of around $150 per carton.
That will change in June, when the penalty goes up to $600.
But some city officials say that's still not high enough.
Of the 1,105 retailers inspected by the city sheriff last year, 586 were selling untaxed, or under-taxed, cigarettes.
Many of those contraband packs were trucked up from Virginia. Each pack there carries 30 cents in taxes, compared to $5.85 in New York City.
The City Council is considering a bill that would create a fine of $2,000 for selling untaxed cigarettes.