The 1980's and C.A.T.C.H.

Even before the federal government took these steps to decrease the tax losses from military cigarette sales, these sales were not the most dire cigarette-crime problem Michigan faced. The Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations stated in 1977 that as of 1975, the "high-tax states were losing approximately $400 million to tax evasion," some of it to military bases, some to Indian reservations, some to casual smuggling, but the majority to organized crime.[96]

Compared to the frenzied activity of the 1970s, the 1980s were a less eventful period in Michigan's cigarette crime history, although cigarette crime did not disappear, especially since the decade brought a 91 percent increase in the tax rate in 1982, from 11 cents to 21 cents. The tax stayed at 21 cents until 1988, when it was raised to 25 cents. Proposal A of 1994 raised the per-pack cigarette tax by 200 percent, from 25 cents to 75 cents.

The major cigarette crime-related event of the 1980s was the establishment of the Cigarette and Tobacco Central Hotline, or C.A.T.C.H., a toll-free, multi-state phone number that citizens could use to report cigarette-related crimes. The project was inspired by a series of major thefts in 1986. Manufacturers needed to contact numerous states to report the thefts, a tedious task, and eventually everyone recognized the need for a way to efficiently consolidate information on such crimes. Michigan and 13 other nearby states participated in the hotline. The initial response was tepid, leading Michigan to start offering rewards to encourage people to use the hotline. The hotline still operates today, and calling the number gets you a voicemail with the following message:

Thank you for calling the Michigan Department of Treasury tobacco violations hotline. The information you provide will not be disclosed during or after the investigation, nor will you be notified of the outcome. You may file your complaint anonymously; however, we encourage you to leave your name and telephone number in case additional information is necessary to proceed. After the tone, please provide the complete name and address of the individual or business you are reporting, and the nature of your complaint.

[96] John Shannon, "The Prospects for Federal Legislation Against Cigarette Smuggling," Proceedings from the 51st Annual Meetings of the National Tobacco Tax Association (Chicago: Federation of Tax Administrators, 1977), 26-7.