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Maine Appeals Decision Invalidating Tobacco Law

Maine Attorney General Steven Rowe has appealed a federal judge's decision that invalidated a significant portion of a 2003 state law aimed at preventing youth access to tobacco from Internet and mail-order sales, according to an Associated Press report.

Maine's law required procedures to verify the age of people purchasing tobacco by mail. It was designed in part to prevent youths from ordering cigarettes online and to assist the state in collecting taxes that would otherwise be unpaid.

U.S. District Judge D. Brock Hornby said Maine's statute was wel -intentioned, but ran afoul of federal interstate commerce laws by impeding delivery services. Rowe disagreed with Hornby's conclusion.

"We believe that the states have well-established powers to adopt laws that keep youth from smoking," Rowe said. "While we would welcome a federal law that accomplished the same goals as the Maine law, we do not believe that the people of Maine should have to wait for Congress to muster the courage to enact similar legislation."

Maine is one of 16 states that have passed laws restricting home-delivery tobacco sales. Under the Maine law, the person to whom the tobacco products are addressed must be at least 18 years old and must sign for the package. If the buyer is under 27, a government-issued identification must be shown at the time of delivery.

After the law was enacted, United Parcel Service announced it would no longer make consumer tobacco deliveries in Maine. UPS was joined by members of regional motor transport associations in challenging the law in U.S. District Court.

On May 27, Hornby ruled that states can regulate contraband only if it does not "significantly affect a carrier's prices, routes or services." His ruling traced federal pre-emption of interstate commerce to an 1887 law. While Congress has written into the law some areas that are exempt from federal preemption, the Maine Tobacco Delivery law "fits none of the exemptions," the judge wrote.

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