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News stories tagged with "tobacco"

Mohawks prefer diplomacy in tobacco tax fight

Last year, Governor Paterson signed into law a bill that would enforce collection of state tobacco taxes when non-natives buy cigarettes at native-owned stores. Albany estimates up to 400 million dollars a year in taxes are going uncollected. But like his three predecessors, Paterson's administration said last week it will not try to collect the taxes. Remember when the Seneca Nation burned tires on the Thruway when then-Governor George Pataki tried to collect them? The whole issue is knotted up in lawsuits. New York City is suing a Long Island tribe. Two counties are suing the Cayuga Nation. The rulings could set precedents in the now cloudy case of tobacco taxes and native tribes. Jim Ransom says there's an easy solution - sit down and talk. Ransom is chief of the St. Regis Mohawk tribe in Akwesasne. The Mohawks are at odds with New York State over three issues - the cigarette taxes, land claims in St. Lawrence and Franklin counties, and building a casino in the Catskills. Ransom says one agreement can resolve them all.  Go to full article

Mohawks: tobacco smuggling answers lie in cooperation

Last week, the Center for Public Integrity released an exhaustive investigation on the confluence of illegal tobacco, drugs, and organized crime on the Mohawk reservations on the St. Lawrence River. Yesterday we spoke with the report's author.

Today, the Mohawks' side of things. Chiefs of the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe near Massena say Canada and the United States are raising cigarette taxes without considering historic tribal rights to trade tobacco. Chief Jim Ransom says the author of the Center for Public Integrity report didn't even request an interview with tribal chiefs. The Mohawks have endured a reputation as smugglers even before tobacco companies worked with some natives to traffic untaxed cigarettes into Canada in the 1990s. This year's surprise hit film, Frozen River, has brought Akwesasne's reputation to the big screen and the nation. Chief Ransom told David Sommerstein he condemns the drug trafficking and crime that happens in Akwesasne. But he says the characterization ignores the history of oppression and environmental degradation brought on the Mohawks.  Go to full article

Report ties organized crime, drugs to Akwesasne tobacco trafficking

A new report details the billion dollar trafficking of untaxed cigarettes into Canada from the Akwesasne Mohawk reservation near Massena. The investigation by the Center for Public Integrity documented 5 to 10 unlicensed tobacco factories in Akwesasne and on the Kahnawake reserve near Montreal.

Smugglers carry cigarettes across the Canadian border and sell them in Ontario and Quebec for $20 a carton. A legally taxed carton costs $80 to $90. The Canadian government estimates it is losing $1.6 billion a year in taxes while health care costs associated with smoking are rising. William Marsden of the Montreal Gazette reported the story. He told David Sommerstein the tobacco smuggling has attracted more organized crime and drugs to an already porous region of the U.S.-Canada border.  Go to full article

Mohawks on tobacco tax: "sit down with us"

On Monday, Governor Paterson signed a bill to enforce collection of taxes on cigarettes sold at native-owned stores. Supporters say the law will bring the state anywhere from 60 million to almost a billion dollars in new revenue. But it's highly unlikely that money would do anything to help close next year's massive budget deficit. According to the Buffalo News, Seneca Nation President Barry Snyder says Governor Paterson himself said the new law is "flawed" and "political." Native tribes across New York have vowed to fight the law in court, saying it violates their sovereignty. Jim Ransom, chief of the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe in Akwesasne, says it also would make the economy worse and deepen an already grave smuggling problem. Ransom told David Sommerstein a loss of cigarette sales would affect 400 to 500 people in and around the reservation between Massena and Malone.  Go to full article
1,200 shoes arranged in piles and paths in the "No More Empty Shoes" exhibit.
1,200 shoes arranged in piles and paths in the "No More Empty Shoes" exhibit.

Art with a message: don?t smoke

The art gallery at Ogdensburg Free Academy is filled with shoes. The 1,200 tattered sneakers, shiny pumps and faded work boots represent the number of people who die everyday from smoking and tobacco use. The shoes are part of the new art exhibit, No More Empty Shoes, that opens at the school Friday. Organizers hope the strong visual images send a message to teens on the dangers of tobacco. Todd Moe has more.  Go to full article

Mohawks pursue tobacco tax deal

In February, the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe came closer than ever to building a glitzy casino in the Catskills. They signed a compact for the gaming resort with Governor Spitzer. At the same time, two of the three Mohawk chiefs signed another document. It was a letter agreeing to pursue a "trade agreement" with New York on the sale of untaxed cigarettes and gasoline on the Akwesasne Mohawk reservation near Massena. The Mohawk chiefs were in Albany last week for talks with Governor Spitzer. As David Sommerstein reports, tribes and non-native business owners across New York are watching carefully.  Go to full article

Spitzer vows to collect tobacco tax

Martha Foley reports on Governor Spitzer's response to a state court's ruling on a law that would require the state to collect taxes on non-natives who buy cigarettes at native-owned stores.  Go to full article

R.J. Reynolds to end sales of flavored cigarettes

Attorney General Eliot Spitzer and Attorneys General from 37 other states have reached an agreement with the R.J. Reynolds Company to ban the sale of candy-flavored cigarettes. Karen DeWitt reports.  Go to full article

Anti-Smoking Groups Press for More Money

Anti-smoking groups are urging the legislature to adopt Governor Pataki's plan to fully fund the Health Department's tobacco use reduction program. Karen DeWitt reports.  Go to full article

Canton Considers Underage Smoking Law

The Village of Canton is considering a law to fine kids for smoking. The St Lawrence County Tobacco Free Coalition proposed the measure to the Village Board. It would levy fines of $50-75 to anyone under age 18 caught smoking in public. A public hearing on the proposed no smoking ordinance will take place January 23 at the Canton Municipal Building. Mayor Bob Wells says it started with complaints about young smokers outside Canton's elementary school.  Go to full article

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