Federal Legislation to Combat Tobacco Smuggling Will Protect Health and Fight Crime

Statement of Susan M. Liss, Executive Director, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids

Oct. 14 2011

WASHINGTON, DC — The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids strongly supports the Smuggled Tobacco Prevention Act, legislation that gives Congress an opportunity to promote public health, protect sorely needed revenues, and fight crime by reducing smuggling of tobacco products and related tobacco tax evasion. The measure was introduced yesterday by Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas) and Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.).

This legislation makes good sense as a matter of law enforcement, public health policy and international leadership by the United States.

Tobacco smuggling is a domestic and international problem for which there are solutions. The potential for high profits has encouraged individuals and organized criminal groups to engage in tobacco smuggling. Smuggling has also been made easier by the failure of some states to require tax stamps on cigarette packs. Reducing tobacco smuggling will help governments collect revenue generated from tobacco taxes that are now being evaded and help reduce tobacco use, the leading preventable cause of death in the United States. Reducing tobacco smuggling also will help preserve the public health benefits of higher tobacco prices, a proven strategy for reducing tobacco use, especially among kids.

The Smuggled Tobacco Prevention Act will enhance law enforcement by creating a system to track and trace tobacco products and block their diversion into illegal distribution channels. It would require tobacco products to carry a unique identification marking and improve registration and record-keeping requirements. The bill also will keep machines used to manufacture tobacco products and to apply tax stamps out of the hands of illegal manufacturers and counterfeiters, make it tougher for law breakers to get federal tobacco-related permits, and enhance penalties.

We applaud Rep. Doggett and Sen. Lautenberg for their commitment to combating tobacco smuggling, and for introducing this important legislation. We urge the current Congress to enact the Smuggled Tobacco Prevention Act into law.

 

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