July 14, 2004

Doggett, Wyden Introduce Bill To Stop Tobacco Smuggling

Combating illegal trade would help decrease availability of tobacco to kids, return tax dollars to states

WASHINGTON, DC U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas) and U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) introduced legislation this week to combat illicit trafficking in tobacco, a key strategy for addressing worldwide nicotine addiction. The legislation, called the Smuggled Tobacco Prevention Act (SToP), puts new and stronger requirements on tobacco labeling, tracking and reporting on all tobacco packages manufactured in or imported to the U.S. It would require each package of tobacco products manufactured for export to be marked to identify the country of final destination to prevent illegal reentry into the U.S. or other nations. The SToP Act includes provisions recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) and adopted in the recently decided EU-Philip Morris Settlement to curb tobacco smuggling and tax evasion.In the recent EU settlement, Big Tobacco agreed to set new standards for stopping tobacco smuggling in Europe and cannot justify doing less to reduce smuggling in America," said Rep. Doggett, a member of the House Committee on Ways and Means and Subcommittee on Health. "It is now up to Congress adopt the STOP Act and keep cheap tobacco out of the hands of our children and keep the profits of smuggled cigarettes out the bank accounts of international terrorists.Tobacco smugglers are making big bucks off of an illegal trade that increases the availability of tobacco to children all over the world, said Wyden. This legislation will protect our children from a harmful addiction and get tax dollars back to the states where they belong.In an August 2003 report, the WHO estimated that worldwide, governments lose $25-30 billion in taxes to cigarette smuggling, with state and federal authorities in the U.S. suffering losses of more than $1.5 billion annually in evaded cigarette taxes. The health consequences of widespread smuggling are also severe because the number of nicotine-addicted children increases dramatically with the availability of cheap tobacco.The Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, American Cancer Society, Infact, Federation of Tax Administrators, Canadian Non-Smokers' Rights Association and former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop have all endorsed the SToP Act. Dr. Koop called the bill the kind of public health measure that must be encouraged by the federal government.