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BUFFALO, N.Y. - A judge refused Monday to temporarily block the state's ban on Internet cigarette sales while several online retailers challenge the law in court.
The law, passed in 2000 but not enforced until last week, prohibits Internet and mail-order sales of cigarettes to private individuals in the state who are not licensed by New York to receive them, the Associated Press reported. Attorneys for the state said the law, passed as a public health statute, is intended to keep cigarettes out of the hands of children.
The Online Tobacco Retailers Association, two out-of-state online sellers, a Seneca Indian retailer and two disabled consumers had asked for a temporary restraining order while their legal challenge makes its way through the court.
The ban also is being challenged in state court by two Seneca Indian business people who claim it is an attack on Indian businesses, which are exempt from state sales taxes. Some of their cigarettes are sold over the Internet and by mail
While, convenience store retailers won a brief victory in what promises to be a protracted battle, online retailers yesterday announced they had filed a second lawsuit attacking the state's law that bars Internet and mail-order sales of cigarettes.
Representing two prominent Seneca Nation business people, Buffalo attorney Paul J. Cambria Jr. filed suit Friday in state court claiming that New York's law prohibiting the sales is a violation of the rights of Native Americans.
"The main difference between our lawsuit and the federal action is that ours was filed only by Senecas and revolves entirely around Native American issues," Cambria said. "Our clients feel strongly enough that they will fight as long and hard as they have to -- to the U.S. Supreme Court, if necessary."
Cambria's law firm filed the suit on behalf of two Seneca Nation tobacco sellers, Anna L. Ward and Barry Snyder Jr. Both businesses sell cigarettes in their shops but also use the telephone, mail and Internet to conduct mail-order sales of untaxed cigarettes at prices far below those charged in non-Indian stores, The Buffalo News reported.
"We're closely watching the progress of the federal case before Judge Skretny, but we also feel we have a strong case on constitutional issues in the state court," Cambria said. "This statute is an attack on Native American businesses, and we want the law to be struck down."