JUNEAU (AP) The Senate has approved a bill to make it easier to prosecute sellers of black market cigarettes.
The measure, approved Friday, would require a state tax stamp on each pack of cigarettes sold in Alaska. Regulators could then tell at a glance whether illegal cigarettes were being sold.
The bill is sponsored by Sen. Con Bunde, R-Anchorage, who said it is now difficult to tell whether the state's $1 per pack tax has been paid.
Once you have a tax stamp, Bunde said, ''it adds a far bigger hammer'' in prosecuting illegally imported cigarettes.
It's tough to tell how many black market cigarettes are being sold in Alaska, Bunde said, but hopefully it's going to put a crimp in it.''
Authorities could also seize the illegal cigarettes if the measure becomes law.
Bunde added an amendment to exempt the first five packs of cigarettes found in someone's possession. That allows a traveler who purchased cigarettes in another state to enter Alaska without violating the law, he said.
The amendment was adopted by a vote of 17-3. Sens. Gretchen Guess, D-Anchorage, Lyman Hoffman, D-Bethel, and Donny Olson, D-Nome voted against it.
The bill, Senate Bill 168, passed the Senate 18-2 with Hoffman and Olson voting against it.
If approved, Alaska would join 46 other states that currently use tax stamps on cigarette pack. Bunde said it was unclear how much tax revenues could be raised, but said every 1 percent equals $400,000.
Because of a procedural move, the bill could come up for a vote again in the Senate. It would then go to the House.
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