On Tuesday, California and New York City jointly filed suit against the US Postal Service, claiming the federal agency is ignoring a federal law designed to prevent terrorist groups from profiting off illicit cigarette sales in the US.
The suit, which was filed to a Brooklyn court, claimed California and New York State lose $19 million and $21 million a year, respectively, combating the illegal distribution and sales of cigarettes sent through the mail, CBS News reported. By some official estimates, 5 million packs of cigarettes are sent by mail to New York State each year; California receives 6 million packs annually.
"Accepting and delivering contraband cigarettes is not only a health hazard for our citizens but a detriment to our state's economy," Xavier Becerra, California’s Attorney General, said in a press release. Both California and New York State have some of the strictest regulations for cigarettes, including high taxes for legal sales and bans on smoking in public spaces.
The suit cites 2010’s Prevent All Cigarette Trafficking (PACT) Act, which bans the mailing of all tobacco products, smokable and smokeless, in most cases. Statute 1103, Section 3 of the PACT Act requires the US Postal Service to monitor all packages it receives for tobacco products. According to the suit, the US Postal Service has willfully neglected its duty to stop underground cigarette sales.
Gallery — Photos of Cops Smoking Weed:
“The Postal Service has turned a blind eye to the illegal shipment of cigarettes through its facilities, undermining our health laws and causing millions of dollars of tax losses to New York City,” said Acting Corporation Counsel Georgia M. Pestana in a news release. Pestana also stated that the USPS’s Inspector General said the service needs to crack down on cigarette smuggling, which includes destroying all packages found with tobacco. She alleged that the USPS has been returning offending packages back to the senders, which is in violation of the PACT Act.
The USPS has not yet responded to the press with a statement.
"Cigarette smuggling doesn't just break the law — it endangers the health of countless Americans and enriches terrorists and organized crime," New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a press 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."
The PACT Act specifically mentions radical Islamic terrorist groups, such as Hezbollah, al Qaeda, and Hamas as some of the world’s top cigarette smugglers. The PACT Act states that children can purchase cigarettes through online retailers, too.
According to the CDC, tobacco use kills 480,000 Americans every year, and 16 million Americans currently live with a disease caused by smoking. Diseases caused by smoking cost the US healthcare system $300 billion each year.
Earlier this week, the FDA officially endorsed a tobacco company’s smokeless snus products as safer, but still dangerous, alternatives to smoking cigarettes.
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