Congressman Faleomavaega today announced that he has introduced the Stop Tobacco Smuggling in the Territories Act of 2012 (H.R. 5934) to add American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas and Guam to the current 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. According to a 2011 Feasibility Study commissioned by American Samoa Community Cancer Network on a Cigarette Tax Stamp Program in American Samoa, an estimated 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.” Faleomavaega said.
“Furthermore, the study reported that cigarettes are smuggled into American Samoa by individual travelers, who do not declare cigarettes that are in excess of the amount of tax-free cigarettes allowed for personal use (up to 200 per trip) and also by boats that evade Customs inspections. Contraband cigarettes are also obtained when a purchaser buys them at the Post Exchange (PX) in Tafuna and sold to local merchants who in turn resell them to members of the public. The purchase of cigarettes at a PX is only legal when they are purchased for personal consumption and not for resale.”
“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. Smoking causes many different types of cancer such lung, pancreatic, bladder, kidney and throat cancer. Smoking also causes coronary heart disease and is a factor in sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “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 Act only applies to internet and mail order cigarette smuggling and it only imposes civil penalties while the Contraband Cigarette Trafficking Act imposes criminal penalties.”
“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.” Faleomavaega concluded.