Cigarettes Under Fire in New York, Quebec

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Cigarettes Under Fire in New York, Quebec

ALBANY, N.Y. -- A State Supreme Court judge in Erie County temporarily barred the state from enforcing a new law requiring the collection of taxes on cigarettes sold on Indian reservations, the Post-Standard reported.

State Supreme Court Justice Rose H. Sconiers signed a temporary restraining order last week that orders state officials to appear in her court Jan. 27 to prove why she shouldn't issue an injunction against the collection. The lawyers for Day Wholesalers of Tupper Lake and Scott Maybee, a Seneca Nation tobacco distributor, requested the restraining order.

"We went before Judge Sconiers to say the tax department and the state have to do more before it can put this one law into effect," Murphy told the paper.

On Dec. 15, Governor David A. Paterson signed a law that requires cigarette wholesalers to certify to manufacturers that they are complying with laws requiring payment of excise taxes on cigarettes sold to non-Indians, according to the report. The law would take effect Feb. 14.

Morgan Hook, spokesman for Paterson, said the state will comply with the judge's order while it reviews the decision, and added the state tax law exempts Native Americans from paying taxes on cigarettes, but the state never set up a mechanism to rebate any cigarette taxes paid by Native Americans. State courts have ruled New York cannot enforce its cigarette tax law until it sets up the rebate process, she told the paper.

Mark F. Emery, director of media relations for the Oneida Nation, told the paper the court action highlights the need to resolve legal issues surrounding the Indian nations' claims of sovereignty.

"The decision underscores, yet again, that legal attacks against sovereign Indian nations do not work," he said. "Hopefully this decision finally puts all of the parties in a frame of mind to negotiate resolutions of these issues."

In other cigarette news, Quebec convenience stores preparing to fight a new law in the province that would ban cigarette sales in stores with fast-food counters.

The Quebec convenience store association will meet with the province’s health minister next year in support of its case against the Quebec's Tobacco Act, a law that went into effect in 2006, according to the group's president Michel Gadbois in a report by CBC News.

The law requires separate entrances and a wall between places where cigarettes are sold and places where food is served, and violations are punishable by hefty fines, the report stated.