AMERICAN SAMOA SETS HARSH FINES FOR NOT PAYING CIGARETTE TAX

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By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (November 3, 2000 - PIDP/CPIS)---Anyone caught not paying the cigarette excise tax will be fined $1,000 per cigarette or $20,000 a pack, according to legislation signed into law last week by Governor Tauese Sunia.

"By imposing stiff penalties for failure to pay excise taxes on tobacco products, I believe (we are sending) a strong message to those seeking to circumvent our tax laws," said Governor Tauese.

The new law also adopts federal rules concerning cigarette labeling and advertising. Tauese, who is himself a smoker, said this provision "is consistent with our efforts to educate the public regarding the potential hazards of smoking."

The legislation was introduced by Representatives Otomalesau John Ah Sue and Vasai Fred Vasai. Reached by telephone, Rep. Otomalesau applauded the governor for signing the legislation into law.

"With all these recent cases of cigarette smuggling into American Samoa, we had no local laws to combat this problem," said Rep. Otomalesau. "But this new legislation tightens up our local laws on the importation of tobacco products and provides a better control of cigarette smuggling.

"Here’s a message to cigarette smuggler: don’t mess with American Samoa. We might be a territory, but don’t let our small size fool you with the power that we have," he added.

He said the adoption of federal labeling laws also puts a lid on foreign made cigarettes sold in the territory without health warning labels.

The law also applies to those who do not pay taxes for cigars or per ten grams of smoking tobacco.

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