NYC, California Sue Postal U.S. Service

States want to stop cigarettes from being mailed to U.S. residents from outside the country.

October 24, 2019

NEW YORK—California and New York City are suing the U.S. Postal Service in an effort to stop cigarette packages from being mailed to U.S. residents from foreign countries, the New York Times reports. The lawsuit claims that smugglers are evading cigarette taxes, while postal workers look the other way.

Filed in Brooklyn federal court, the suit blames the Postal Service for cigarette deliveries from Vietnam, China, Israel and other countries. The governments charge that failure to enforce a federal law aimed at banning cigarette mail deliveries costs California an average of $19 million annually in tax revenue and New York City and state more than $21 million each year. The lawsuit seeks a court order to force the Postal Service to intercept and destroy packages believed to contain cigarettes. The Postal Service does not comment on active litigation, said a spokesperson for USPS.

"Cigarette smuggling doesn't just break the law, it endangers the health of countless Americans and enriches terrorists and organized crime," said Bill de Blasio, NYC mayor. "Yet despite all of this, our nation's own postal service has ignored the practice and enabled one of the biggest killers in our country. It needs to end, and we intend to be the ones to end it."

"Accepting and delivering contraband cigarettes is not only a health hazard for our citizens but a detriment to our state's economy," said Xavier Becerra, attorney general for California.

Georgia M. Pestana, NYC’s acting corporation counsel, said the USPS has ignored the inspector general's warning that it is violating the law when, in some cases, the service returns illegal shipments to senders instead of destroying them.

Postal service officials' failure to enforce the 2010 Prevent All Cigarette Trafficking law "thwarts each and every goal expressed by Congress in the statute," including efforts to stop terrorist organizations, such as Al-Qaida, from profiting by cigarette distribution through the mail, the lawsuit said.

Authorities estimate as many as six million packs of cigarettes are delivered by mail each year to California and five million packs to New York City and state. They determined those figures following an audit conducted last year by investigators at the John F. Kennedy International Mail Facility, the lawsuit said. The audit concluded that more than 100,000 cartons of cigarettes at the facility were destined for 48 states.