Senecas fight tobacco sales bill

The Seneca Nation of Indians is publicly lobbying against a proposed federal regulation that it fears would severely damage Indian-operated cigarette sales and manufacturing operations.

Billboards along the I-190 in downtown Buffalo make pleas to Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand to vote against the federal Prevent All Cigarette Trafficking Act bill that the Seneca Nation and other Indian tribes feel will all but shut down mail-order cigarette sales. If enacted, the bill could see more than 1,000 people locally lose their jobs, the Senecas say.

Many feel the bill is being championed by major cigarette manufacturers as an attempt to shut down or severely limited Indian-operated cigarette businesses.

“We applaud the goal of halting rogue tobacco smuggling, but it’s wrong to wipe out legitimate jobs in the process,” said Barry Snyder, Seneca Nation president. “Tobacco trade is a key component of the Seneca Nation economy.”

Snyder said if the PACT legislation is approved, the Seneca Nation could lose as much as 65 percent of its import/export revenue from cigarette and tobacco sales. Proceeds from those sales help fund health and education programs for the Seneca Nation.

Snyder noted the Seneca Nation uses state-of-the-art stamping and enforcement measures that ensure compliance with a rigorous set of internal regulations. Among the regulations are: retailer authorization, minimum pricing standards and a ban on sales to minors.

The Seneca Nation also works closely with Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Enforcement on all matters related to cigarette sales.

Besides the billboards, the Seneca Nation’s Foreign Relations Committee has been working with lobbyists on rallying defeat for the PACT act.

“The PACT Act is being portrayed as a tool to fight cigarette smuggling,” Snyder said. “In reality, it will kill legitimate, treaty-sanctioned Native American commerce, causing significant economic harm.”


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