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Schumer And Spitzer Announce Legislation To Ban Shipment Of Tobacco Through The U.S. Mail

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 Yorks 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 new 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 its time that this loophole is 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.

Several states, including the State of New York, have laws prohibiting or restricting the sale of cigarettes and smokeless tobacco to consumers via the mail. The Postal Service contends that the current law is too vague and therefore requires the Postal Service to deliver all packages if it cannot discern with certainty whether the package contains tobacco products. Schumers bill would place the shipment of cigarettes and smokeless tobacco on par with other nonmailable items such as liquor, firearms and explosives.

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.

In 2005, both DHL and UPS 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 further illegal cigarette sales. Finally, last month, Philip Morris USA (PM USA) reached an agreement with a coalition of 37 Attorneys General to reduce the supply of PM USA cigarettes to those engaged in such illegal sales.