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House approves black market cigarette bill

Posted: Tuesday, May 20, 2003

JUNEAU (AP) A bill passed in the House Monday making it easier to prosecute illegal cigarette sales.

Senate Bill 168, sponsored by the Senate Labor and Commerce Committee, passed unanimously late Monday. It now goes back to the Senate to consider changes made to the bill.

The bill would require that a state tax stamp be affixed to each pack of cigarettes sold in Alaska. Regulators could then tell at a glance whether some black market cigarettes were being sold.

Rep. Mike Hawker, R-Anchorage, said the Department of Revenue has estimated that the bill could bring in $3.5 million by going after the market in illegal cigarettes.

''This is going after a truly huge market in black market cigarettes,'' he said.

Hawaii approved such a measure and followed it up with vigorous enforcement of the new law and saw a 50 percent increase in revenues, Hawker said.

Supporters have said the sale of black market cigarettes creates an unfair disadvantage for retailers who legally sell cigarettes.

Alaska imposes a $1 per pack tax on the sale of cigarettes. But supporters say without a state tax stamp the law has been difficult to enforce. The measure would also give law enforcement and state regulators the authority to seize cigarettes that are being illegally sold.

If the bill become law, Alaska would join 46 other states that currently use tax stamps on cigarette packages.

Rep. Harry Crawford, D-Anchorage, has been promoting a similar bill in the House.



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