Legal Hotline: Tax-Free Cigarettes

  • Jul 07, 2016

Melissa Melewsky, Media Law Counsel

Q:  A cigarette outlet on a Native American reservation in another state wants to advertise tax-free cigarettes in our paper.  Is that OK?

A:  No.  The Pennsylvania Department of Revenue takes the position that claims of tax-free cigarettes are false and misleading, and as such, they should not be published by newspapers.

The federal PACT Act and Pennsylvania law require cigarettes sold in or shipped to Pennsylvania to include applicable taxes. The Prevent All Cigarette Trafficking (PACT) Act, an amendment to the federal Jenkins Act (Title 15 U.S. Code § 376), became effective in 2010.  The law requires businesses that sell or advertise cigarettes or smokeless tobacco for interstate commerce into Pennsylvania to register with the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue and file monthly reports about the prior month's shipments.  Businesses are also required to register with the tobacco tax administrator of the US Attorney General.

Pennsylvania law allows residents to purchase one carton of out-of-state cigarettes (not bearing a genuine PA Cigarette Tax stamp on the bottom of the pack). However, the law requires the purchaser to pay the appropriate cigarette and sales and use taxes to the PA Department of Revenue. 

Newspapers can be held liable for false, misleading or deceptive advertising under state and federal consumer protection laws, and in light of applicable tobacco tax laws, PNA strongly discourages publication of ads purporting to sell tax-free cigarettes. 

As always, this is not intended to be, nor should it be construed as, legal advice.  Newspapers with questions should contact their corporate attorney or the PNA Legal Hotline at (717) 703-3080.

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