Missouri's Gray Area
KANSAS CITY, Mo.In a ruling that could affect convenience store and petroleum marketers throughout Missouri, the Dirt Cheap Cigarettes and Beer Co. wants the Cole County Circuit Court to extinguish part of the state's new tobacco law. In a lawsuit, D.C. Inc. complains the law, which prohibits tobacco use by minors, also illegally cancels a part of the company's business: selling so-called gray market cigarettes, according to the Jefferson City News Tribune.Those cigarettes are manufactured outside the United States, by or through the major U.S. tobacco companies. The lawsuit contends they may be legally imported into the United States. Those cheaper prices allow dealers, such as Dirt Cheap, to stay competitive in the U.S. market.Fred Teutenberg, Dirt Cheap's president, told the Associated Press the state law allows large tobacco companies to have too much control over the distribution and sale of cigarettes."Our point is that the major cigarette companies are trying every way they can to control the retail price of cigarettes," Teutenberg said. "It is unfortunate that the state wants to enact an unconstitutional piece of legislation benefiting only big tobacco at the detriment of small business and the Missouri consumer."Teutenberg asked the court to eliminate the gray market portions of the law, or to cancel the entire law.