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ALBANY, N.Y. -- One of the world's largest package delivery companies will stop delivering cigarettes to individual consumers nationwide under an agreement with New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer.
Spitzer said DHL is the first major shipping company to agree to the ban and that negotiations continue with other companies and the U.S. Postal Service, reported the Associated Press. The agreement follows a March deal in which major credit-card companies began refusing to participate in Internet sale of cigarettes nationwide.
The agreement in March involving Spitzer and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives was aimed at ending a common method for youths to obtain cigarettes, which can't legally be sold to people under 18 years old.
In Tuesday's agreement, DHL cuts off another route for Internet cigarette sales, a growing business, Spitzer said.
Audrey Silk of New York City Citizens Lobbying Against Smoker Harassment said the actions are simply boosting an illegal market for cigarettes in which no one asks a consumers' age. The measures deny consumer choice, because some brands are only sold out of state.
"When the product is legal, who are you to say I can't order it?" said Silk, who's also a Libertarian candidate for New York City mayor. "He's attacking one consumer class trying to buy a legal product and strong-arming the common carriers into going along with his campaign to keep cigarettes out of adult hands."
DHL General Counsel Jon Olin said the agreement is in the best interest of customers and the public. The company will still be able to deliver tobacco products to licensed retailers and other authorized recipients.
"By taking a proactive approach, DHL is pleased to be the leader in the prevention of illegal cigarette sales in the United States," Olin said.
State and federal law enforcement agencies have since 2004 sought to crack down on Internet sales of cigarettes partly because they lack age verification for the buyers and partly because it costs state and local governments billions of dollars in sales tax.
States lose more than $1 billion a year in tax revenue from Internet tobacco sales, according to the ATF. Enforcement, however, has been difficult, even though in many states, including New York, the Internet sale of tobacco products is illegal.