AUGUSTA, Maine – The U.S. Supreme Court will review a lawsuit filed against the State of Maine by several motor transport associations that challenges a 2003 law regarding cigarette sales over the Internet.
The law requires online tobacco retailers to use carriers that make sure packages containing tobacco products are not delivered to minors.
“States have the right and the duty to protect the health and safety of children,” Maine Attorney General Steve Rowe said. “This state law does just that by preventing youth access to tobacco products.”
Motor transport associations in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont contend that a federal statute concerning the free flow of interstate commerce pre-empted the Maine law. The 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed, though Rowe criticized the decision.
He said it “leaves delivery sales of tobacco to children unregulated by any government, a result nowhere suggested by Congress or supported by common sense.”
The case will likely be heard in December. The State’s brief will be filed in August.
The Maine law — An Act To Regulate the Delivery and Sales of Tobacco Products and To Prevent the Sale of Tobacco Products to Minors — requires retailers to use a delivery service that ensures the purchaser is the addressee, the addressee to be of legal age to purchase tobacco products and sign for the package and, if the addressee is less than 27 years old, to present identification showing proof of age.
According to a report by The Associated Press, President Bush sided with the plaintiffs and asked the justices to reject the appeal.
Attorneys General have a long history of fighting over tobacco products, most notably the 1998 Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement.
The MSA allows approximately 40 tobacco companies to sell cigarettes in 46 states and six U.S. territories. It was negotiated largely by trial lawyers hired by the states.
The Competitive Enterprise Institute says trial lawyers were paid an estimated $13 billion for their work, which, in some occasions, amounted to tens of thousands of dollars per an hour of work. The settlement was worth $246 billion.
The states alleged that tobacco products caused the state’s harm by raising medical costs.