Tobacco Enforcement Section: History and Responsibilities
In 1998, the Commonwealth, forty-five other states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and four United States territories entered into the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement (“MSA”) with the four largest U.S. tobacco product manufacturers. Following settlement with these manufacturers, various other tobacco product manufacturers also voluntarily joined the MSA. Under the MSA these tobacco product manufacturers have agreed to adhere to various marketing, advertising and promotional restrictions, especially pertaining to youth smoking. In 1999 and 2003, the General Assembly enacted statutes establishing the Virginia Tobacco Directory, and requiring that all Tobacco Product Manufacturers and their cigarette products (including both pre-fabricated cigarettes and roll-your-own (“RYO”) cigarette tobacco) be certified by the Attorney General’s Office for sales activity in the Commonwealth. These statutes also provide that it is unlawful to affix a Virginia revenue stamp to a product of a tobacco product manufacturer or brand family not listed on the Directory, require bonding for certain manufacturers, require reporting by licensed stamping agents, and provide authority for auditing, investigation, and seizure of tobacco products by the Office of the Attorney General.
The Tobacco Enforcement Section was created to enforce and administer the terms of the MSA and specified Virginia statutes relating to Tobacco Product Manufacturers and cigarette product regulation. Specific responsibilities of the Tobacco Enforcement Section include:
- Maintenance and publication of the Virginia Tobacco Directory;
- Maintenance and publication of the Virginia Non-Authorized Holders List;
- Certification and regulation of Tobacco Product Manufacturers and their cigarette products for sales activity within the Commonwealth;
- Regulation of Virginia “Stamping Agents” (entities licensed to apply tax stamps or to pay SET on cigarettes or RYO cigarette tobacco);
- Regulating the sale of cigarette and RYO product in the Commonwealth through auditing and field investigation activities;
- Regulation of “Delivery Sellers” (the retail delivery of cigarette / RYO product);
- Obtaining and analyzing certain industry reports as required by statute;
- Reporting and providing information as required by statute and certain state agreements.
In addition, the Tobacco Enforcement Section provides information and assistance to both members of the Virginia tobacco manufacturing, distribution and sales industries and to the general public.