Panel: Mass. should get tougher on illegal tobacco

BOSTON (AP) — A new report says Massachusetts could lose up to $300 million in annual tax revenue from black market tobacco and recommends that the state increase fines and penalties for the illegal cigarette sales.

A special commission formed by the Legislature to study the illegal tobacco trade also said in its final report Friday that the state should create a multi-agency task force to attack the problem.

Massachusetts recently raised its cigarette excise tax to $3.51 per pack, among the highest in the nation. State officials worry that will further encourage the smuggling of cigarettes into Massachusetts from states with lower tax rates.

The commission pegs the annual revenue loss from illegal tobacco at anywhere from $62 million to $246 million in excise taxes, and an additional $12 million to $49 million in sales taxes.

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