PACT Act Appeals Underway

WASHINGTON -- U.S. Federal District Court Judge Richard Arcara today will hear arguments by both sides – the U.S. government and the Seneca Free Trade Association -- appealing his split decision made last week regarding the constitutionality of the Prevent All Cigarette Trafficking Act (PACT Act), the Jamestown Post-Journal reported.

Approved by Congress and signed into law by President Obama earlier this year, the PACT Act would prevent cigarette shipments to be made using the U.S. Postal Service, as well as ensure remote sellers of cigarettes and tobacco products charged the applicable state excise taxes and verified buyers' ages.

The appeals, both filed Friday, object to Arcara's ruling that a mailing prohibition on cigarettes and other tobacco was legal, but did not require tax collections from remote sellers of tobacco products.

The Seneca Free Trade Association, made up of Seneca merchants, challenged the constitutionality of the act, and questioned the legality of its members having to comply with a requirement of prepaying the taxes of the shipment's destination, the report stated.

While Senecas also argue they should be able to ship products, the federal government believes taxes should be paid on the products, an element of the law Arcara ruled against.

Until a ruling is made, the Seneca organization is asking Arcara to allow its members to use the U.S. Postal Service.

U.S. Attorney William Hochul said his office feels congress acted appropriately in voting for the PACT Act, the president signed the law, making it "the law of the land."

"It's our role to defend that," he told the newspaper.

In its appeal of Arcara's ruling that taxes do not yet have to be collected for interstate tobacco sales, the government cited other interstate examples, including on-line pharmacies that must comply with other states' licensing of pharmacists and gun laws that must be adhered to for other states, the newspaper reported.

Governmental court documents cited by the paper state Seneca merchants "have no right to undercut their brick-and-mortar competitors by selling tobacco products tax-free." It also noted Congress found remote sales make it cheaper and easier for minors to obtain tobacco products.

"Congress crafted the PACT Act to confront special problems presented by remote tobacco product sales by requiring remote sellers comply with laws of destination jurisdictions," the governmental court documents state, adding Arcara's previous ruling not requiring the tax collections is "against public interest."

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