Friday, February 22, 2008

Maine Tobacco Dealers set to go out of Business, thanks to Supreme Court

by Ken Houghton

If a 17-year-old tries to buy cigarettes in a store in Bangor, the clerk is required by Federal law to check his or her ID, and refuse the sale.

If that same 17-year-old buys cigarettes over the Internet (without paying state taxes), The Supreme Court believes that's a Great Idea:
The US Supreme Court on Wednesday struck down key portions of a Maine state law aimed at preventing minors from purchasing cigarettes and other tobacco products over the Internet or through other mail-order services. The vote was 9-0.

At issue was whether the 2003 state law was preempted by federal efforts to deregulate the shipping industry nationwide.

In agreeing with the shipping companies, the high court said Maine's law, while well intentioned, interfered with a congressional determination to prevent shipping companies from becoming mired in conflicting state regulations. Instead, Congress sought to leave it to the competitive marketplace to determine which services companies might offer or decline to offer.

"To allow Maine to insist that the carriers provide a special checking system would allow other states to do the same," writes Justice Stephen Breyer in the court's 11-page decision. "To interpret the federal law to permit these, and similar, state requirements could easily lead to a patchwork of state service-determining laws, rules, and regulations." [emphases mine]

I leave it to The Rest of the Story to explain to me what is so special about requiring a confirmation that local retailers are required to make.

Meanwhile, tobacco dealers who rent space and pay taxes and check ID (or get fined for not doing so) in Maine are wondering why they got rogered.

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