Tobacco giant Philip Morris USA filed suit today against five importers and nearly 1,500 retailers, accusing them of smuggling and selling counterfeit cigarettes including the Marlboro brand.
The tobacco´s actually grown in China.
The federal lawsuit filed in US District Court in LA was brought against small convenience stores, liquor stores and even doughnut shops. It also targets large importers that Philip Morris claims have smuggled nearly a quarter million illegal cartons into the United States.
Contraband tobacco was brought on by a sharp rise in the price of cigarettes caused by increased vice taxes. The cost of a pack ranges from $3.00 in Virginia to $7.50 in New York.
California estimates it loses as much as a quarter-billion dollars a year due to a variety of tobacco-related tax evasion schemes.
Philip Morris also has sued retailers in New York, Arizona, Florida and other states.