Rules Set to Halt Tobacco Mailings to Consumers
The U.S. Postal Service published its proposed rule May 5 to carry out the Prevent All Tobacco Cigarettes Trafficking (PACT) Act, which was signed by President Obama on March 31.
The U.S. Postal Service published its proposed rule May 5 to carry out the Prevent All Tobacco Cigarettes Trafficking (PACT) Act, which was signed by President Obama on March 31. Taking effect July 1, the law prohibits mailing cigarettes or smokeless tobacco to consumers and requires Internet tobacco retailers to verify purchasers' ages and to collect tobacco and sales taxes and pay them to the states where the purchasers live. Section 3 of the act creates a new section 1716E of Title 18, U.S. Code, making violations of the mailing provisions subject to criminal prosecution and civil penalties. Mail sent in violation may be seized and forfeited, according to the law.
USPS Priority Mail has often been used to ship cigarettes and smokeless tobacco, according to USPS, which estimates it has collected $35-40 million in revenue annually from tobacco mailings.
This law could be the end of online tobacco retailers; the National Association of Tobacco Outlets and allies lobbied for passage of the law, and its executive director has predicted a tax windfall for all states will result and online retailers will be "unable to transact business as usual."
USPS asked for comments on the proposed rule by May 17. There are exceptions in the law that allow intrastate mailings within Alaska and Hawaii; mailings between verified and authorized tobacco industry businesses for business purposes or between such businesses and federal or state agencies for regulatory purposes; "infrequent, lightweight shipments" mailed between adult individuals: shipments of cigarettes sent by verified and authorized manufacturers to adult smokers for consumer testing purposes; and shipments by federal agencies for public health purposes under similar rules applied to manufacturers conducting consumer testing.
The law says USPS cannot accept or transmit any package that it knows, or has reasonable cause to believe, contains nonmailable smokeless tobacco or cigarettes, and reasonable cause is to be based on:
- A statement on a publicly available Web site, or an advertisement, by any person that the person will mail material that is nonmailable in return for payment;
- The fact that the mailer or other person on whose behalf a mailing is being made is on the U.S. attorney general's List of Unregistered or Noncompliant Delivery Sellers.
Send comments by e-mail (containing the name and address of the commenter with "PACT Act" as the subject line) to MailingStandards@usps.gov.