Washington— U.S. Congressman Lloyd Doggett, a senior member of the House Ways and Means Committee, reintroduced the Smuggled Tobacco Prevention (STOP) Act (H.R. 2990), legislation that would collect hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue, decrease the consumption of tobacco, and combat criminals and terrorists who profit from the illegal trade of tobacco. Identical language was included in the Tobacco Tax and Enforcement Reform, S. 826, introduced in April by late Senator Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ), and supported by Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Tom Harkin (D-IA). Rep. Peter King (R-NY) is the lead co-sponsor of the bill, joined by 39 other Members of Congress.
The STOP Act addresses the serious and growing problem of illegal tobacco trafficking by requiring that packages of tobacco products be uniquely marked to aid law enforcement efforts to track and trace tax payments on tobacco products. It bans the sale, lease, and importation of tobacco product manufacturing equipment to unlicensed persons. The bill prevents the illegal re-entry of tobacco products intended for export by requiring export warehouse proprietors to file reports with the Treasury Department. It also increases penalties for violating the law and establishes new offenses.
“Tobacco products are the single largest, illegally trafficked, legal product on the planet. But current federal laws to stop smugglers are outdated and fail to give law enforcement officials the tools they need to enforce the law,” said Congressman Doggett. “Snuffing out smuggled tobacco, whether sold here or shipped across our borders, can cut crime, raise revenue and boost health.”
The U.S. Department of Justice has estimated that tobacco smuggling in the United States costs federal and state governments at least $5 billion in lost revenue annually. The STOP Act mandates that packages of tobacco products manufactured in or imported to the United States bear a unique, high-tech identification marking similar to that which the State of California is already using. This requirement, along with increased permit and record-keeping requirements throughout the supply chain, will enable enforcement officials to distinguish real tax markings from even the most advanced counterfeits, identify who applied the marking and initially sold and purchased the product, and obtain other information useful for tracking, tracing, and enforcement purposes. These requirements will help states and the federal government increase their tobacco tax receipts without raising taxes.
The bill is supported by the American Cancer Society-Cancer Action Network, the American Heart Association, the American Lung Association, and the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids (see attached letter), as well as Corporate Accountability International, and Action on Smoking & Health.