Jan. 29, 2010

Glendora store robbed at gunpoint

Gloucester Township police are searching for a gunman who robbed 7-Eleven convenience store on Evesham Road early Wednesday before fleeing on foot.
Police responded to a call from the store at 940 W. Evesham Road about 1:55 a.m. When they arrived, a clerk told them the suspect pulled a firearm in the store and demanded cash and cigarettes, according to the police news release.
The clerk gave him a large quantity of cash and several packs of cigarettes, after which the suspect ran on Station Avenue toward the Black Horse Pike.
The suspect was reported to be a black male, wearing a black coat, black jeans, black ski mask and black gloves. He was approximately 5-foot-11 to 6-foot-1 with a thin build.

Jan. 27, 2010

Governor to get tough on cigarette tax

The Paterson administration will soon advance new tax regulations to begin the collection of excise taxes on cigarette sales by Native American retailers, a top aide to Gov. David A. Paterson said Wednesday. The move was sharply condemned by a top Seneca Nation leader.
The release of the regulations will start a six-month clock for public comment, which means the state could begin collecting the taxes as early as July.
While advocates of collecting the tax expressed some skepticism about another governor promising to break the long dispute with Indian tribes, they also said Paterson’s move is the first major step on the issue in years.
“The governor will enforce the law, and we are taking steps necessary to do that. There shouldn’t be any doubt about that,” said Peter Kiernan, the governor’s counsel.
In the meantime, Kiernan said, the state will continue what he said are serious negotiations with a number of tribes, including the Seneca Nation, to try to reach “price equality” arrangements in which the price of a pack of cigarettes would be the same on and off reservations.
But J.C. Seneca, a tribal councilor and co-chairman of the Seneca Nation Foreign Relations Council, rejected the Paterson administration’s claims that there are talks with the Senecas to resolve the tobacco tax dispute.
“At no time, never, when I’ve been at the table have we been negotiating anything with the state,” said Seneca, who has meet with Paterson and his lawyers on at least two occasions.
“I don’t think we’d ever sell tobacco products at the same price as off-reservation. That would not be beneficial to our retailers or our economy, because we wouldn’t have any. If the governor and Legislature had their way, we’d be out of business. It would be devastating to our economy and the economy of Western New York,” he said.
“They need to leave us alone and let us do our business and create opportunities for our people,” Seneca added.
The governor Tuesday proposed a $1-per-pack tax increase — to $3.75, the nation’s highest — in order to help bring money to the cash-starved budget. But the budget plan also included a vow to end the state tax department’s “forbearance” policy of not enforcing laws already on the books to collect the cigarette taxes.
“The governor concluded he could not raise the tax by a dollar, which would further exacerbate the unfair competitive landscape that exists between sellers on non-Native and Native land, without taking the next logical step in pursuit of our policy, which is price equality,” Kiernan said.
The state has two tax-collection laws on the books that have been halted by a court order. The most recent, signed by Paterson in 2008, would put the legal burden on wholesalers to ensure that all cigarettes they sell to retailers have a state tax stamp affixed to the cigarette packs. Kiernan said there are only about four wholesalers who sell tax-free to the New York tribes. He said the intent of the governor’s plan is to ensure the provisions of that law are followed by the wholesalers.
The issuance of the regulations is, Kiernan said, a first step in the state’s plans to get the injunction against the tax collections lifted. 
“Our fervent wish is that during the next six months, while the regulations are out there for comment, that we will conclude a lot of these negotiations” with Indian tribes, Kiernan said.
Russell Sciandra, director of the Center for a Tobacco Free New York, said the governor’s plan will put him in a better negotiating position with some tribes. “He clearly has strengthened his hand,” Sciandra said.
Sciandra questioned, though, what incentive the Seneca Nation, the top Indian sellers of tax-free cigarettes in the United States, might have in cutting any deals for price equality with the state.
Non-Indian retailers checked their enthusiasm. 
“It’s a mix of hopefulness and skepticism,” said James Calvin, executive director of the New York State Association of Convenience Stores. “History has taught us to be skeptical of any new promises coming from the governor’s office on this issue. There’s a long trail of deliberate delay, deceit and broken promises, primarily by Gov. Paterson’s two predecessors.”
If lawmakers agree, the $1-per-pack tax hike takes effect June 2. That, though, would be before any collection effort, giving Indian retailers an even bigger pricing advantage, Calvin noted. He said Paterson should collect the Indian taxes before considering a tax hike.
Seneca said the Paterson move will harm relations with Native Americans. “We’re going to hunker down and dig in. If the state is going to take a position that they want conflict and controversy, then that’s what they are going to get,” he said.
Seneca said he is considering proposing his own six-month comment period about whether to give the state access to the Thruway that cuts through the tribe’s Cattaraugus reservation.
“He’s talking out of both sides of his mouth,” Seneca said of Paterson’s plan to move to collect the tax but negotiate with the tribes.

Jan. 25, 2010

Paterson's new cigarette, sugared drink taxes could affect Elmira residents' spending habits

As part of his budget plan, Gov. David Paterson wants to increase the tax on a pack of cigarettes by $1 and add a penny tax per fluid ounce of sugared drinks.
Local residents spending part of Saturday afternoon in downtown Elmira expressed mixed reactions to the governor's plan.
Some, like Peter Recktenwald, admit that the increase could coax them to change their consumer habits.
Recktenwald, who recently moved to Elmira, said he has already experienced higher taxes at his new home, and he intends to buy less sugared beverages and quit smoking as a result of the plan.
The taxes will only hurt the poor, he said, explaining that those who can still afford the products will continue to buy just as much.
Among those who would be unaffected by the new taxes is Matt Bryant, who said any increase in cost won't change his buying habits for soft drinks.
Bryant quit smoking a few months ago, just in time to escape the proposed tax hike on cigarettes.
Non-smokers Mike and Sue Harris also said the taxes wouldn't affect their buying habits, but added that they don't purchase enough sugared drinks to notice the change.

Jan. 21, 2010

Jefferson City Considers Smoke Free Ordinance

Although several businesses in Jefferson City have banned smoking on their property, one anti-smoking coalition does not believe it's enough to keep the air clean.
The 'Smokefree Jefferson City' coalition gave the city council a report on Tuesday that showed how hazardous exposure to secondhand smoke is. The report contains results from a recent study the University of Missouri conducted. The coalition hopes the report will cause the city council to seriously consider an ordinance. Jefferson City is one of six remaining state capitals without a smoke-free ordinance.
The results showed places that allow smoking contain high levels of fine particulate matter (PM) pollution, which is harmful to the lungs. The study found the average PM level for public places that allowed smoking was almost sixteen times higher than the PM levels for smoke free places. Researchers also found that only two smoked cigarettes in a public place raises the PM levels to a hazardous level. 
Coalition member Felicia Poettgen said a smoke-free ordinance not only cleans up the air, but it also helps decrease heart problems. 
"The scientific evidence is consistent," said Poettgen. "There is a causal relationship between secondhand smoke and heart disease. We encourage our city council to consider a policy for smoke free workplaces and public places as a compelling, yet simple way to reduce heart attacks in our community."
One city council member said passing a smoke-free ordinance would not be an extreme decision but rather a logical step in the right direction. 
"When you go to a restaurant, you expect clean water," said city councilwoman Carrie Carroll. "You expect your food to be safe to eat and cooked to a certain temperature. So when I look at clean water and food, clean air is just a part of that. It's part of the whole environment."
The report is only the first step in the process of presenting an ordinance. Poettgen said the coalition will officially present the ordinance sometime in the spring. Until then, city council members will hold meetings to more thoroughly discuss the issues surrounding an ordinance.

Jan. 18, 2010

Californian pleads guilty in Blue Stilly tobacco tax scheme

A California-based cigarette broker has admitted his part in a $20 million scheme to sell contraband cigarettes to the Blue Stilly Smoke Shop on the Stillaguamish Reservation.
Rick Conn pleaded guilty Friday in U.S. District Court to conspiracy to traffic in contraband cigarettes and conspiracy to launder monetary instruments. He admitted that he brokered a cigarette deal between Cowlitz Candy and Tobacco and the Arlington smoke shop.
Prosecutors allege that the Cowlitz Candy illegally sold untaxed cigarettes to the Blue Stilly.
The shop was owned by Ed and Linda Goodridge, their son Eddie Goodridge Jr., and a relative, Sara Schroedl.
Authorities believe the Goodridges were able to avoid paying more than $20 million in cigarette taxes by faking invoices and disguising the ownership of the shipments.
The Goodridges were on the tribal council when they took over operation of the shop.
They were sentenced to prison in March and were ordered to pay more than $25 million that should have gone to Washington state through tobacco taxes.
Conn and two other co-conspirators are scheduled to be sentenced April 16.

Jan. 11, 2010

Teacher sacked after handing cigarettes to pupils... who were being punished for smoking

A teacher lost her job after admitting giving cigarettes to pupils while supervising them in the ‘naughty room’ after they had been caught smoking.
Jane Eccles handed them to a boy, who could be as young as 13, and a girl of at least 15 years of age after claiming the ‘confrontational’ children had ‘bullied’ her.
But after bosses at the top secondary Sir Christopher Hatton School in Wellington, Northamptonshire found out, the 60-year-old was fired.However, Mrs Eccles, who smokes herself, avoided being struck from the national register after a disciplinary case was heard at the General Teaching Council (GTC) in Birmingham.
Colin Hinds, business manager at the foundation school, said: ‘This was an extraordinary and isolated case, the likes of which the school has never seen in its history.
‘Our parents rightly expect school staff to be the best possible role models for their children.
‘Parents should be reassured, not only by the swift and appropriate action the school has taken in this case, but also by the high standards of care and professionalism which our dedicated team of staff exhibit every day and which must be maintained.’ 
Mrs Eccles had been appointed supervisor of the School Exclusion (ISE) Room, where pupils caught smoking are taught in isolation for two days, in September 2007.
But less than year after landing the role, she succumbed to pressure by children sent there and handed out cigarettes.
She gave one to a boy in Year 9, which spans the ages of 13 and 14, and another, on a separate occasion, to a girl in year 11, in which pupils are aged between 15 and 16.Neither student was named nor any ages provided.
Mrs Eccles said that the male pupil involved had threatened her with violence unless she handed over a smoke.
‘The lad was very confrontational and I was frightened for my safety,’ she told the GTC panel.
‘I was on my own with this boy when he became threatening. He was a real handful, and I gave him the cigarette. 
‘When he was caught smoking it, he told them he had got it from me.‘During a hearing with the school I did explain that the child had become confrontational, but I was still dismissed.’ 
The second incident, involving the Year 11 girl, also came to light during the investigations.
Mrs Eccles admitted: ‘The female pupil asked for a cigarette so I did give one to her. There was no threatening behaviour on her part.’ 
The teacher, who lives in Kettering, Northamptonshire, insisted that she had only given both students cigarettes on one occasion, despite the GTC committee finding that she had done so ‘at least half a dozen times’.
She added: ‘The whole ordeal has made me very ill and I have had to seek counselling. 
‘As a result of this I joined MIND, the Mental Health organisation, and have since been working for it. I have given up teaching and wouldn’t like to set foot in a school again.’
A GTC statement said: ‘At an investigatory interview, Mrs Eccles admitted, and the Committee finds, that she had supplied to two pupils from Years 9 and 11 on approximately half a dozen occasions, with cigarettes and matches while on the school premises.
‘The Committee also finds that Mrs Eccles was aware of the law regarding the supply of cigarettes to minors and the terms of the School’s no-smoking policy.’
The GTC issued Mrs Eccles with a reprimand which will remain on the register for two years.

Jan. 5, 2010

Davao City seeking ways to discourage cigarette sales

The city council plans to amend its anti-smoking ordinance to make it more difficult for people to buy cigarettes.
Among the proposals is to ban retailing cigarettes per stick, as well as on selling these on the streets, Councilor Peter T. Lavina said. This, he added, should make it difficult especially for the poor to spend their money on so-called sin products.
But the councilor said the city council would also look for ways to cushion the impact of low cigarette sales on affected street vendors.
He said a hearing would be set with these vendors, among other affected parties, noting that big retailers have already stated opposing the proposal.
"We need to listen to everyone on the issue," he said, adding that retailers had opposed the city’s 2002 ordinance banning smoking in public places such as restaurants and popular venues for meetings and leisure.
Establishments that want to have smoking areas must provide for enclosed areas and must not expose employees to smoke.