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Faleomavaega introduces Stop Tobacco Smuggling in the Territories Act of 2012

To assist the efforts of law enforcement in combating tobacco smuggling in American Samoa, Congressman Faleomavaega Eni introduced last Friday in the US House the Stop Tobacco Smuggling in the Territories Act of 2012 (H.R. 5934).

Faleomavaega said this measure will add American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas and Guam to the current federal Contraband Cigarette Trafficking Act, which makes it illegal to knowingly ship, transport, receive, possess, sell, distribute, or purchase 10,000 or more contraband cigarettes that do not have a state or territorial tax stamp. Violators of the act will face fines and criminal penalties.

“This legislation will provide law enforcement an additional tool to combat tobacco smuggling in American Samoa,” he said yesterday.

(Samoa News should point out that American Samoa does not have a tax stamp program, which was recommended last year in a report by the Territorial Audit Office.)

The bill, co-sponsored by Reps. Madeleine Z. Bordallo of Guam and Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan of the CNMI, has since been referred to the Committee on the Judiciary. The measure seeks to amend title 18, United States Code, to include certain territories and possessions of the United States in the definition of State for the purposes of chapter 114, relating to trafficking in contraband cigarettes and smokeless tobacco, according to the bill’s language.

In a news release yesterday announcing that the bill has been introduced, Faleomavaega cited the 2011 Feasibility Study commissioned by American Samoa Community Cancer Network on a Cigarette Tax Stamp Program in American Samoa, in which the study estimated that 5.8 million cigarettes were smuggled into American Samoa in 2010; this represents an estimated revenue loss of over $724,000 to the American Samoa government.

“Besides depriving American Samoa of much needed tax revenues, cigarette smuggling contributes to a growing health crisis on our island. There are many health risks associated with cigarette smoking,” said Faleomavaega in his news release.

“Smoking causes many different types of cancer such as lung, pancreatic, bladder, kidney and throat cancer. Smoking also causes coronary heart disease and is a factor in sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS),” he said.

Faleomavaega also cited statistics from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which states that the adverse health effects from cigarette smoking cause an estimated 443,000 deaths, or nearly one of every five deaths, each year in the United States.

Additionally, tobacco related illnesses cost nearly $100 billion in health care costs each year in the United States.

 “Currently, on the federal level there are only civil penalties that can be enforced on smugglers in American Samoa pursuant to the Prevent All Cigarette Trafficking Act (the PACT Act). The PACT only applies to internet and mail order cigarette smuggling and it only imposes civil penalties while the Contraband Cigarette Trafficking Act imposes criminal penalties,” said Faleomavaega.

“As cigarette smuggling continues in American Samoa, the Stop Tobacco Smuggling in the Territories Act of 2012 will help local authorities combat the growing cigarette smuggling in our territory,” he said.

BACKGROUND

See Samoa News editions on Apr. 9, Apr. 12 and Apr. 17 for more details on the 28-page study, which was released last August and prepared by consultant Bryan M. Jackson.

The study followed a May 2011 Territorial Audit Office report, which found that cigarettes were likely being smuggled into American Samoa, and that as a result ASG was losing a significant of amount of excise tax revenue each year.

The study suggested that cigarettes were smuggled into the territory by individual travelers, who do not declare the cigarettes, by boats that evade Customs inspection and by those who purchase from the Post Exchange store in Tafuna.



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