Trade Commission Blocks Cigarette Smuggling into U.S.

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Trade Commission Blocks Cigarette Smuggling into U.S.

RICHMOND, Va. -- The International Trade Commission (ITC) last week issued a General Exclusion Order that requires U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to deny entry into the U.S. of illegally imported Marlboro, Virginia Slims and Parliament cigarette, which infringe on Philip Morris USA's (PM USA) trademarks, the nation's largest cigarette maker stated.

"We're pleased that the ITC granted the General Exclusion Order, which should be a helpful tool for law enforcement in addressing illicit Internet cigarette sales and reinforces that preventing these imports is a priority," Joe Murillo, vice president and associate general counsel for Altria Client Services, said in a statement on behalf of PM USA.

In March 2008, PM USA filed a complaint with the ITC to stop foreign-based Internet sellers from selling cigarettes bearing PM USA's trademarks. PM USA named 13 respondents who operate Web sites and identified an additional 177 sites that sell Marlboro and other PM USA brand cigarettes intended for sales overseas, to U.S. customers.

The ITC launched an investigation, and an administrative law judge subsequently determined the foreign Internet sellers are unlawfully importing cigarettes into the U.S., according to the statement.

As a result, the commission ordered CBP to stop all such cigarettes from entering the U.S., including all Marlboro-, Virginia Slims- and Parliament-branded cigarettes sold by the named Internet sellers and any other online sellers engaged in similar activity.

PM USA previously worked with law enforcement, legislators and others in government to address the problems stemming from illegal Internet cigarette sales, such as lack of reliable age verification, violation of trademark laws and evasion of applicable taxes.

In addition, PM USA supports H.R. 1676 and S. 1147, companion bills known as the Prevent All Cigarette Trafficking Act of 2009 (the "PACT" Act), which passed the House in May 2009 and is intended to prevent tax-evading sales of cigarettes and smokeless tobacco by remote sellers who operate via the Internet, mail or phone, the company stated.

"The PACT Act is the result of years of bipartisan discussion and represents a real opportunity to address the problems caused by illegal Internet cigarette sales," Murillo added. "We applaud its sponsors for their efforts and encourage the Senate to take swift action."

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