U.S. House approves Faleomavaega’s bill to stop tobacco smuggling in US Territories
Congressman Faleomavaega reported to local media that the House, by a vote of 421-5, passed H.R. 338, the Stop Tobacco Smuggling in the Territories Act of 2013. This legislation, introduced in January by the Congressman, will amend the Contraband Cigarette Trafficking Act (CCTA) of 1978 to include American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and Guam.
“I would like to thank Chairman Goodlatte of the House Judiciary Committee, Ranking Member Conyers, and all members of the committee for their support on this legislation. Specifically, I want to recognize my good friends subcommittee Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner and Ranking Member Bobby Scott for their acceptance and support of this legislation. I want to also acknowledge Speaker John Boehner, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi for their leadership, and support of this bill,” Faleomavaega said.
“American Samoa faces a serious problem of tobacco smuggling. According to a recent study, in 2010 alone, as many as 5.8 million cigarettes were smuggled into the territory. The study found that tobacco smuggling resulted in a loss estimated about $724,116 in revenues to the American Samoan government,” Faleomavaega added.
“Under the CCTA that Congress passed in 1978, it is illegal to ship, sell, transport or possess more than 10,000 cigarettes (500 packs) per month not bearing the tax stamp of the jurisdiction in which they are found. Violation is a felony punishable by up to five years in prison and seizure of the contraband cigarettes. These penalties do not currently apply to American Samoa, because neither American Samoa, Guam nor the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands were included in the federal law.”
“H.R. 338 will amend the CCTA to include American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and Guam, and give law enforcement an additional tool in combating tobacco smuggling in American Samoa, by creating stricter penalties for those caught smuggling tobacco.”
“Although, H.R. 338 will apply the CCTA to American Samoa, the provisions of CCTA are only applicable — if the local government implements a cigarette tax stamp program. In February, I wrote to Governor Lolo and members of the Fono encouraging them to pass a cigarette tax stamp program. It is possible that the local government can receive funding from the U.S. Department of Interior’s Technical Assistance Program to help develop the tax stamp program.”
“The bill now goes to the Senate for approval, and afterwards for the President to sign into law,” Faleomavaega concluded.