Judge Strikes Down NY Ban on Direct-Sales Tobacco

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A federal judge has thrown out a New York state law banning mail-order, Internet and telephone tobacco sales.


U.S. District Court Judge Loretta A. Preska ruled Friday in a 77-page decision that the law interfered with interstate commerce and was unconstitutional, according to Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp., which challenged the law in a lawsuit filed in October.


New York's law, enacted last August, interfered with Brown & Williamson's plans for a multimillion-dollar catalog campaign to market its cigarette brands, the company charged in the lawsuit.


The state is reviewing the decision and will decide later whether to appeal, said Joe Conway, spokesman for New York Gov. George Pataki. In the meantime, the state plans to work with its congressional delegation to pass laws that increase states' authority to regulate the direct sales of cigarettes.


"We are disappointed that the court has struck down a law that intended to save lives by keeping children from smoking," Conway said.


Louisville, KY-based Brown & Williamson last year formed a subsidiary, BWT Direct, to sell cigarettes by mail, fax and telephone, with plans to expand sales to the Internet in the future. The company produced an eight-page catalog that offered Carlton, Misty, Capri, Barclay, Tareyton, Raleigh, Belair, Tall and Silva Thins brands.


The tobacco company said it needed to use direct sales to market its cigarettes because limited shelf space at retail stores prevents some lesser-known brands from reaching consumers. The company said it was prepared to ensure that all applicable taxes on cigarette sales would be paid and that thorough efforts would be made to prevent sales to minors.


"Brown & Williamson is prepared to work closely with New York and other states and supports efforts to deny youth access to cigarettes," company attorney Alan Porter said in a statement.


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