The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee has approved a bill that would ban the U.S. Postal Service from delivering cigarettes and other tobacco products — a policy already adopted by private couriers like Federal Express and UPS.
Indian Country Today reported Nov. 27 that the committee passed the Prevent All Cigarette Trafficking Act (PACT) on Nov. 19. The House previously approved companion legislation on a 397-11 vote.
The measure would shut the door on the only remaining legal shipping option for mail-order tobacco firms, including those owned by Native American tribes like the Seneca Nation of upstate New York.
Big U.S. tobacco companies are among the supporters of the legislation. “The sale of untaxed and under-taxed cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products remotely — via the Internet, mail or phone — harms legitimate wholesale and retail businesses, consumers and government budgets.” said Philip Morris spokesperson Dave Sutton.
Seneca Nation officials told Congress that passing the legislation could cost the tribe up to 65 percent of its business. “We agree with the fundamental goals reflected by the PACT Act, that no one should be engaged in illegal cigarette smuggling,” said Seneca Nation President Barry E. Snyder. “But cigarettes are a lawful product and this PACT Act is nothing but a money grab by Philip Morris to destroy legitimate, treaty-sanctioned American Indian commerce.”