SENECA NATION, CATTARAUGUS TERRITORY - The Seneca Nation of Indians Tuesday announced a change in law to make sure all cigarettes sold on Nation territories are "fire-safe" and that all are tested, certified and marked as such before they can be sold.
The Tribal Council on Saturday joined 37 state legislatures in voting in favor of the measure, asking the Nation's Import-Export Commission, the agency that regulates tobacco commerce on Nation lands, to ensure that all tobacco products employ "safe-burn" technology so they self-extinguish if left alone.
"The Seneca Nation recognizes its responsibility to sell the safest-possible products and this decision was an easy one," said President Barry E. Snyder Sr. "Thanks to the Council's action, this now has the force of law."
The implementation plan states that as of Sept. 1 no cigarettes may be imported into, or manufactured within, the Nation's territories unless testing, certification and marking standards are met. By Dec. 1, 2009 all provisions of the law will take effect and no cigarettes can be sold or offered for sale within the Nation's territories unless the testing, certification and marking standards are fully complied with.
It is expected that most retailers will move quickly to meet the mandates, not waiting until they are legally enforceable. Cigarette manufacturers and wholesalers will have to meet a series of stringent testing criteria and certify their products are safe, on penalty of losing the right to sell in stores on Seneca territories.
The Nation enacted its Import-Export Law Feb. 15, 2007 "to protect Nation territorial integrity through the regulation of goods imported and exported into and from Nation territory and to generate revenue to conduct essential government operations." Revenues derived from stamping and regulating tobacco on Nation territories go in part to pay for Nation health-care programs.
Fire-safe cigarettes are an effective way to counter the risk of fires started by unattended cigarettes. The most common fire-safe technology used by cigarette manufacturers is to wrap cigarettes with two or three thin bands of less-porous paper that act as "speed bumps" to slow a burning cigarette. If a fire-safe cigarette is left unattended, the burning tobacco will reach one of these speed bumps and self-extinguish.
"Clearly the Seneca Nation endorses standards that ensure public safety and will minimize the risk to consumers," said Council Chair Richard Nephew. "This amendment to our Import-Export Law allows only so-called 'fire safe' cigarettes to be manufactured, imported and sold in the Nation's territories."