U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy is cosponsoring legislation to disrupt criminal and terrorist organizations that use the illegal tobacco trade to fund their activities.

The Combating the Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products Act authorizes the executive branch to deny development and security assistance to countries that knowingly profit from the trade and to implement sanctions on the individuals responsible.

“Cartels and terrorists are getting creative to fund their criminal activity, putting Americans in danger,” said Cassidy. “We need to take every step to combat these groups and hold those supporting them accountable.”

The Center for the Analysis of Terrorism reports that nearly 15 terrorist organizations throughout the world regularly have recourse in large proportions to smuggling and counterfeiting cigarettes, including Hezbollah. According to a Department of State report, the illicit trade in tobacco products costs governments and taxpayers between $40 billion and $50 billion annually in tax revenues.

U.S. Senators Roger Wicker (R-MS), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) are also cosponsoring the legislation.

Cassidy released a white paper in September addressing criminal organizations’ hijacking of legal trade networks, known as trade-based money laundering (TBML), as a top national security concern. The white paper outlined TBML as a threat that ties together drug trafficking, terrorism, and dangerous counterfeit consumer products.

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