What to Know
- NYC and California are suing the USPS to stop thousands of cigarette packages from being mailed from other countries to U.S. residents
- The lawsuit filed Tuesday in Brooklyn federal court blames the postal service for "cigarette tax evasion"
- It says "smugglers" take advantage of widely varying tax rates on cigarettes to rely on a postal delivery system that looks the other way
New York City and the state of California are suing the U.S. Postal Service to stop tens of thousands of cigarette packages from being mailed from foreign countries to U.S. residents.
The lawsuit filed Tuesday in Brooklyn federal court blames the postal service for "cigarette tax evasion."
It says "smugglers" take advantage of widely varying tax rates on cigarettes to rely on a postal delivery system that looks the other way.
It says mailed cigarettes cheat governments of millions of dollars in tax revenue, stall anti-smoking efforts and keep health care costs high.
“Cigarette smuggling doesn’t just break the law – it endangers the health of countless Americans and enriches terrorists and organized crime,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement. “Yet despite all of this, our nation’s own postal service has ignored the practice and enabled one of the biggest killers in our country. It needs to end, and we intend to be the ones to end it.”
According to the complaint, the federal Prevent All Cigarette Trafficking Act that became law in 2010 has deterred domestic cigarette sellers from mailing cigarettes to buyers, but international vendors have become a major source of contraband cigarettes delivered through the USPS.
City officials say that Congress found that cigarette trafficking provides income to organized crime and terrorist groups.
The lawsuit seeks a court order to force the postal service to intercept and destroy cigarettes sent by mail.
“Accepting and delivering contraband cigarettes is not only a health hazard for our citizens but a detriment to our state’s economy,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in a statement about the joint New York City-California complaint. “The California Department of Justice will remain vigilant in pursuing contraband cigarettes that are smuggled into California.”
A spokesperson for the USPS tells News 4 that the postal service does not comment on ongoing litigation.