U.S. Supreme Court Declares Maine Online Tobacco Sales Law Null..

February 21, 2008 - U.S. Supreme Court Declares Maine Online Tobacco Sales Law Null.. The U.S. Supreme Court rejected on Wednesday (February 20, 2008) a Maine law meant to restrict minors’ access to tobacco via Internet or mail by forcing delivery companies to institute a recipient-verification service that ensured the buyer is of legal age. “Despite the importance of the public health objective, we cannot agree with Maine that the federal law creates an exemption on that basis,” Justice Stephen G. Breyer said. “Many products create ‘public health’ risks … to allow Maine directly to regulate carrier services would permit other States to do the same.” The law passed Maine’s legislature in 2003, but both a federal appeals court and the U.S. Supreme Court found it inappropriate. The federal court had already declared it unconstitutional, and the Supreme Court agreed, unanimously voting against it. The law stipulated that carriers should inspect all tobacco packages directed to Maine. In case they failed to do so, carriers such as United Parcel Service and Federal Express faced negligence charges for knowingly allowing minors access to the products. Another aspect of the law was that it prohibited tobacco shipments into Maine for unlicensed retailers. “Maine’s primary arguments for an exception from the pre-emption – that its laws help prevent minors from obtaining cigarettes and thereby protect its citizens’ public health – are unavailing. The federal law does not create a public health exception, but, to the contrary, explicitly lists a set of exceptions that do not include public health,” the Supreme Court said. Maine was not the only state to support such a law, as 31 other states joined the same efforts to cut down on cigarettes deliver over the Internet and most of all, avoid them reaching minors. After taking into consideration all the aspects and Maine’s arguments that rejecting the law would only compromise the efforts to prevent minor’s access to cigarettes, the Solicitor General said other legislative alternatives should be found to this one. In a concurring opinion, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg noted that the case points to an urgent need for federal legislation. "Tobacco use by children and adolescents, we have recognized, may be the single most significant threat to public health in the United States," she writes. "But no comprehensive federal law currently exists to prevent tobacco sellers from exploiting the underage market. Instead, Congress has encouraged state efforts." Click on image to enlarge..