Sunday, March 12, 2006

Ban on mailing tobacco products considered

The Associated Press reports that U.S. Senator Charles Schumer (New York) is charging that the U.S. Postal Service is not doing enough to halt the illegal shipment of cigarettes and smokeless tobacco across the country.

Schumer, joined by New York Attorney General, said he will introduce legislation next week in the Senate that will impose fines of at least $1,000 per offense and possible jail time for anyone convicted of mailing cigarettes through the Postal Service.

"The U.S. Mail has become the last refuge for online cigarette merchants and it's time that this loophole be closed," Schumer said.

Several states, including New York, have laws prohibiting or restricting the shipment of cigarettes and smokeless tobacco directly to consumers. The online trade allows children to buy them and customers in general to avoid paying the taxes levied on them.

Schumer said the federal legislation would ban the mailing of cigarettes and smokeless tobacco, just as liquor, firearms, explosives are now.

He noted that in the past year, delivery companies including FedEx, UPS and DHL have agreed to stop shipping cigarettes.

Gerry McKiernan, a spokesman for the Postal Service, said unlike the other delivery services, federal statutes govern how items may be mailed.

"If you put a stamp on it, we have to deliver it; we have no choice," McKiernan said. "Once you seal it, we can't open it. The stamp seals the package against inspection unless you have a search warrant."

McKiernan added that in areas of the country that are known shipping points for tobacco, window clerks have been directed to ask customers if their package contains cigarettes and whether the appropriate taxes have been paid.

He declined to specifically comment on Schumer's legislation, saying the USPS attorneys would first have to review it.

Shown above is Slovenia's 3-tolar Stop Smoking Week postal tax stamp (Scott #RA3) of 1992 which was required on all mail posted during Sept. 14-21, 1992.
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posted by Don Schilling at 12:01 PM