10 March – LAWFUEL – The Law News Network – Schumer to Introduce Legislation in U.S. Senate to Make Shipping Cigarettes through the Mail Illegal, Allow State AGs to Pursue Violators U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer and New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer today announced that they have teamed up to support legislation to stop the shipment of cigarettes and smokeless tobacco through the U.S. Mail.
At a joint news conference with Spitzer, held at New York’s historic Farley Post Office, Schumer announced his bill that would prohibit mailing cigarettes through the United States Postal Service, impose fines of at least $1,000 per offense and jail time for repeat offenders. The bill would also give state Attorneys General the ability to pursue those who ship tobacco in violation of the law.
“Passing this bill will be the final nail in the coffin for the sale of cigarettes on the Internet,” Schumer said. “The U.S. Mail has become the last refuge for online cigarette merchants and it’s time that this loophole be closed.”
“Working together we are attacking the problem of illegal cigarette shipments on both a state and national level,” Spitzer said. “The Postal Service has become the delivery arm of a massive criminal enterprise shipping contraband cigarettes nationwide. The legislation that Senator Schumer is introducing will ensure that the Postal Service gets out of the cigarette delivery business.”
Internet and mail order cigarette retailers operate in violation of numerous federal, state and local laws, including tax laws, age verification laws, delivery restrictions, reporting requirements, and federal wire fraud and mail fraud statutes. As a result, a coalition of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies has been working on several initiatives to stop these illegal sales, including federal and state criminal indictments of cigarette sellers, seizures of contraband cigarettes, and efforts to strengthen cigarette trafficking prohibitions.
Several states, including the New York, have laws prohibiting or restricting the shipment of cigarettes and smokeless tobacco directly to consumers. Senator Schumer’s bill would make cigarettes and smokeless tobacco non-mailable items, just as liquor, firearms, explosives and even automobile master keys may not be shipped through the U.S. Mail. In addition the legislation will allow the Postal Service to reject packages believed to contain tobacco products.
In the past year, DHL, FedEx and UPS have agreed to cease delivery of cigarettes to consumers throughout the United States. In addition, in March 2005, the major credit card companies all agreed to take steps to ensure that their credit card systems are not used to process payments that enable illegal cigarette sales. Finally, last month, Philip Morris USA (PM USA) reached an agreement with a coalition of 37 Attorneys General to cut off the supply of PM USA cigarettes to those engaged in such illegal sales.