NPR discussed Michigan’s Cigarette Excise Tax today and the new law which allows stiffer penalties on smuggling; did you know that smuggling cigarettes is big business? It is estimated that almost 35 percent of all cigarettes consumed in Michigan have been brought in illegally.

Some lawmakers insist that stronger penalties combined with higher cigarette tax will not only solve the problem, but raise more money. The logic goes like this, “If something isn’t working, do it even more”.

We don’t need to raise the cigarette tax, we need to lower it and not by a few cents, but by $1.25

Smuggling occurs because surrounding states have drastically lower taxes. Take a look at the cigarette tax for our state and compare it to those surrounding us:

  • Michigan $2.00
  • Wisconsin $1.77
  • Ohio $1.25
  • Illinois $0.98
  • Indiana $0.995

Indiana and Illinois are enjoying far greater return on their tax than we ever will at $2.00! That’s 35 percent of our revenue lost to the surrounding states.

If out of 1000 smokers, 350 buy outside the state, that means we receive (650 x $2) $1,300 and lose (350 x $2) $700 to surrounding states.

If we lower the tax to 75 cents, we would then see a massive increase in revenue. Because the tax is the lowest of surrounding states, there is no need to smuggle cigarettes in and all 1000 smokers end up buying local – we end up with (1000 x .75) $750

If you consider only our state, one might think that the higher tax is better, but we need to consider that the smokers in the surrounding states will now turn to Michigan to buy their cigarettes.

Assuming for simplicity sake that each surrounding state also has 1000 smokers each and we’re only considering 4 states, that would be another (350 x 4) 1400 sales or (1400 x .75) $1,050 in taxes.

If you take the additional taxes from people out of state buying our cigarettes and add in the money from our own citizens, that comes to ($1,050 + 750) $1,800 – a profit of $500 per thousand smokers!

But, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Consider this:

  • Calculations assume each smoker only consumes 1 pack per year. In actuality, smokers average 1 pack per day, so that’s 365 packs per smoker.
  • We used a figure of 1000 smokers per state, that number is more in the range of 375,000 and above depending on the size of the state.
  • We considered the surrounding states, but at a tax as low as 75 cents, we’ll be attracting buyers from many more states than the ones we mentioned! The lower the tax, the more buyers.

The numbers are Hugh! The State of Michigan would not only have a phenomenal amount of tax revenue, but there would be more than enough for education and health care combined (these two continually battle for cigarette tax revenue).

If you think this isn’t playing fair, ask yourself why Illinois and Indiana are so close in cigeratte tax and yet so much less than Michigan (or other states for that matter).

For details on the Cigarette tax in Michigan, check out

4 replies
  1. Valerie Emerson says:

    I don’t think its fair….how about taxing pop drinkers, gum chewers choco nuts, munchie addicts..boob tube movie renters..nascar fanatics, golf geeks, and the list can go on. with the Obama tax hike on top of our Michigan tax, going on, we will pay more then any state in the union. now how fair is that? I tell you what if you get a nation of suddenly stopped smokers, you are going to see a large rise in crime…in domestic violence….

  2. richard says:

    I think that our cigarettes are over priced and have been for A long time. I do agree that if they keep moving our taxes up on them that I will personally be buying my cigs online for 21.00 A carton! I think I will order some now thank you

  3. Janet Mason says:

    This is really getting to be a bit much ! Every time Mich. needs more money they attack tobacco, liquer, and gas. I think the lottery brings in enough money to cover the bills ! Why always pick on the few of us. Raise the sales tax if more money is needed and make it more fair to everyone. If us smokers have to travel to another state, so be it, we will. I agree with most people, it has to stop ! Michigan needs lower taxes not higher. A lot of our workers are laid off and can’t afford more taxes. Help out the people not make it worse !!!

  4. Katie Phillips says:

    I am so pissed off, It seems like everytime you turn around, MICHIGAN raises it’s
    tobacco and cigarette tax. IT HAS TO STOP SOMEWHERE!!!
    As long as they keep doing it.. I have no problem going to other states to buy my
    Thank You

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