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Thursday, March 16, 2000

Military personnel
warned of customs

No one can bring U.S. cigarettes
purchased overseas into the country

By Gregg K. Kakesako


Military personnel and their dependents are being warned that even a pack of U.S.-made cigarettes bought overseas at a commissary, post exchange or other civilian duty-free location cannot be brought back into the states.

This even includes a half-finished, opened pack of cigarettes, said Nat Aycox, port director for the U.S. Customs Service in Hawaii. The pack would have to be destroyed and not brought into the country.

And the prohibition doesn't only cover military personnel who shop at overseas post exchanges and commissaries.

"Civilians who shop at duty-free stores," Aycox said, must abide by the restrictions which was part of the provisions of the 1997 balanced budget act.

He said local duty-free stores have been asked to post signs warning patrons that tobacco products, including cigarette paper, made in the United States and sold in duty-free stores fall under this restriction.

The law does not apply to foreign tobacco products, foreign manufactured U.S. brand tobacco products or tobacco products bought before leaving the United States.

There are no exemptions and the Customs Service will not accept offers to pay the appropriate tax and duty.

Aycox said tobacco products made for export don't have a tax stamp or are marked "For export only."

The minimum civil fine is $1,000 with jail terms running as high as five years for the crime which is equated to smuggling, he said.

Military officials said that in the past a soldier on temporary duty for 30 days could bring back 300 cigarettes without paying a duty and tax. Aycox said he believes the restriction was based on tax concerns.

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