Stop Tobacco Smuggling in the Territories Act passes House
Cigarette smuggling is costing the Commonwealth tens of thousands of dollars in lost excise tax revenues and hurts local businesses. For that reason, I was an original cosponsor of H.R. 338, the Stop Tobacco Smuggling in the Territories Act, which passed the House by a vote of 421-5. The bill authored by Congressman Eni F.V. Faleomavaega (D-American Samoa), adds his district, the Northern Marianas, and Guam to the definition of “State” in the Contraband Cigarette Trafficking Act. The CCTA makes it a federal crime to knowingly ship, transport, receive, possess, sell, distribute, or purchase 10,000 or more contraband cigarettes. Extending this federal law to the Northern Marianas will give law enforcement an additional tool to combat cigarette smuggling in our islands. Last February, Commonwealth Customs officers seized 5,000 cartons of contraband cigarettes that would be worth about $100,000 in excise tax revenue, if legally imported into the NMI. Smuggling not only robs the government of revenue, it also hurts legitimate businesses. Illegal cigarettes can be sold at lower prices, taking customers away from the stores that have to pay the tax. H.R. 338 now heads to the Senate for action.