I. Introduction

The Massachusetts Legislature recently amended chapter 64C (the "Cigarette Excise") of the General Laws to increase the excise on cigarettes, cigars and smoking tobacco and smokeless tobacco. See St. 2002, c. 186, effective July 25, 2002. The purpose of this Technical Information Release ("TIR") is to explain the excise rate increase. This Technical Information Release modifies and supercedes in parts TIR 97-1.

II. Law Changes

A. Excise rate increases.

Effective July 25, 2002, G.L. c. 64C, § 6 was amended to increase the amount of the excise imposed on certain tobacco products. The excise imposed on cigarettes will increase from seventy-six cents per pack of 20 cigarettes to one dollar and fifty-one cents per pack of 20 cigarettes.

The excise imposed on smokeless tobacco is increased from seventy-five percent to ninety percent of the price paid by the licensee or unclassified acquirer to purchase smokeless tobacco products.

The excise imposed on cigars and smoking tobacco is increased from fifteen percent to thirty percent of the price paid by the licensee or unclassified acquirer to purchase cigars or smoking tobacco products.

B. Cigarette packs with fewer than 20 cigarettes may not be stamped or sold.

Effective July 25, 2002, Massachusetts stampers are prohibited from affixing a stamp to a cigarette package that contains fewer than 20 cigarettes. See G.L. c. 64C, § 33A. In addition to the other remedies provided in chapters 64C and 62C, the Commissioner may assess a civil penalty of not more than $5,000 for each violation of § 33A as well as suspend or revoke the stamping authority or license of a person who violates this section.

C. New civil penalty provision for failure to comply with G.L. c. 64C, § 34.

Under G.L. c. 64C, § 34 the possession, sale, offer to sell, intent to sell or to otherwise dispose of cigarettes not properly stamped is illegal in Massachusetts. In addition to the existing penalties presently provided in chapters 64C and 62C, the Legislature amended G.L. c. 64C, § 34 to authorize the Commissioner to assess a civil penalty of not more than $5,000 for each violation of this section.

D. New civil penalty provision for failure to comply with G.L. c. 64C, § 35.

Under G.L. c. 64C, § 35 the possession, delivery or transportation of unstamped cigarettes is illegal in Massachusetts. In addition to the existing penalties presently provided in chapters 64C and 62C, the Legislature amended G.L. c. 64C, § 35 to authorize the Commissioner to assess a civil penalty of not more than $5,000 for each violation of this section.

/s/Alan L. LeBovidge
Alan L. LeBovidge,
Commissioner of Revenue

ALL:DMS:jet

August 26, 2002

TIR 02-15