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Cigarette companies back tax stamps in ND

By Dave Thompson

Bismarck, ND – The Philip Morris Tobacco Company is supporting two bills designed to help stop the sale of counterfeit or smuggled cigarettes.

One would allow the state to issue "tax stamps" on cigarettes, and the other would regulate cigarette sales over the Internet. Philip Morris Vice President John Holleran says because North Dakota does not have a tax stamp, it is ripe for contraband -- or for the trafficking of "counterfeit" cigarettes. He says counterfeiting is a growing problem.

"They're fake cigarettes," said Holleran. "The packaging is similar, but the contents suffer from quality issues. They don't smoke the same, they don't taste the same, they don't smell the same. They do not have the same type of quality control requirements that we have for our cigarettes."

Holleran says it also can mean a loss of state tobacco tax revenue for states like North Dakota. He says there was a recent bust of phony cigarettes in Vancouver, British Columbia -- and he says with the Canadian Pacific Railroad coming through North Dakota, that makes this state a target for those who deal in counterfeit or contraband cigarettes.