Representatives of law enforcement groups, public health organizations and trade associations today gathered on Capitol Hill to urge the Senate to pass S. 1147, the Prevent All Cigarette Trafficking Act of 2009 (PACT Act).
This legislation will help combat online cigarette sales that have robbed hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenues from the states and that undermine state laws that prevent youth access to tobacco products. The bill closes loopholes in current federal laws regulating “remote” or “delivery” sales of cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products.
These organizations were joined by Sen. Herb Kohl (D-WI) and Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY), advocates of combating illegal cigarette sales. Numerous stakeholders have worked with Sen. Kohl through the years to pass the PACT Act, which was passed in the House of Representatives this May.
“The PACT Act will strengthen our tobacco laws to ensure that law enforcement has the tools they need to investigate and prosecute cigarette traffickers, said Sen. Kohl. “Each day we delay its passage, terrorists and criminals raise more money, states lose significant amounts of tax revenue, and kids have easy access to tobacco products sold over the internet.”
“We must crack down on the illegal sale of tobacco, which gives terrorists and criminals the ability to raise more money,” said Rep. Weiner. “Every day we delay is another day that states lose significant amounts of tax revenue and kids have easy access to tobacco products sold over the Internet. I urge my colleagues in the Senate to pass the bipartisan PACT Act.”
Organizations represented at the press conference included the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS), American Wholesale Marketers Association, National Black Police Association Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids and American Legislative Exchange Council.
“At the very time when states have undertaken extraordinary efforts to restrict minors’ access to cigarettes and continue to increase cigarette excise taxes, the Internet still offers minors a virtually risk-free and attractively priced means to easily obtain them,” said Henry Armour, president and CEO of NACS. “The PACT Act addresses long-standing concerns that law-abiding neighborhood convenience stores have with respect to tax evasion and underage sales.”
The American Wholesale Marketers Association also released its latest findings from a study it conducted examining the prevalence of illegal Internet cigarette sales and the cost to the country. In the study AWMA found the cost to states in illegal cigarette sales could be upwards of $5 billion per year, and that with online sales there is almost no age verification at the time of purchase.
“The results of this updated study stunned us and the problem of illegal sales of cigarettes has gotten worse,” said Scott Ramminger, AWMA president and CEO. “This study is a clear indication that the PACT Act must be passed immediately so we can effectively combat illegal Internet sales of cigarettes and other tobacco products.”
The Coalition to Stop Contraband Tobacco is a group of individuals, associations, businesses and other organizations that share the goal of enacting legislation that will eliminate underage access to tobacco on the Internet, curtail associated illegal activities and capture lost state excise tax revenues.
SOURCE: Coalition to Stop Contraband Tobacco