2008-10-03 / Top Stories

House Passes Weiner Bill On Black Market Tobacco

The House recently passed legislation to give law enforcement new tools to crack down on smugglers of tobacco - a move that will help New York State and City claim lost tax revenue on illegal tobacco sales, Representative Anthony D. Weiner (D - Brooklyn and Queens) said today. The Congressman is a member of the House Judiciary Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security Subcommittee. By some estimates, New York State loses $1 billion a year from tobacco smuggling.

Weiner's legislation, the Prevent All Cigarette Trafficking Act (PACT) of 2008, overwhelmingly passed the House and is now awaiting passage in the Senate. The bill makes it a felony for selling tobacco in violation of any state tax law. The legislation will also effectively end Internet tobacco smuggling by stopping shipments of cigarettes through the United States Postal Service. FedEx, UPS and DHL have already agreed not to mail tobacco.

Weiner said, "This new crackdown on the illegal sale of tobacco will close a major source of finances for global terrorists and criminals. This bill will raise a significant amount of tax revenue for New York and limit easy access to tobacco products sold over the Internet."

PACT contains the following measures:

1. Strengthens the Jenkins Act: Increases existing penalties from a misdemeanor to a felony, making it a federal offense for any seller making a sale via telephone, the mail, or the Internet to fail to comply with all state tax laws. The legislation also empowers each state to enforce the federal law against out-ofstate sellers sending delivery sales into its state by giving state Attorneys General the authority to seek injunctive relief and civil penalties against violators.

2. List Enforcement: Empowers the Attorney General to compile a list of delivery sellers who fail to comply with this act or states' tax laws.

3. Age Verification: Requires Internet and other remote sellers to verify the purchaser's age and identity through easily accessible databases. It also requires the person accepting delivery to verify his or her age.

4. Tobacco as Non-Mailable Matter: Makes cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products non-mailable matter through USPS. While FedEx, UPS and DHL have agreed not to ship cigarettes and other tobacco products, USPS has continued to deliver tobacco products bought over the Internet.

5. ATF Inspection Authority: Grants the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives inspection authority for distributors of cigarettes and creates a penalty for those who refuse inspection.

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