CT Joins Lawsuit to Compel USPS to Stop Flow of Foreign Contraband Cigarettes
(Hartford, CT) – Attorney General William Tong announced Connecticut has joined a lawsuit seeking to compel the United States Postal Service (USPS) to comply with federal law and stop delivering millions of foreign cigarettes to Connecticut and other states. The lawsuit alleges that USPS knowingly accepted and transmitted packages through domestic mail that it had reasonable cause to believe contained cigarettes or smokeless tobacco, in violation of the non-mailability provision of the Prevent All Cigarettes Trafficking Act (PACT Act).
The lawsuit, first filed last October by California and New York City, was recently amended to include Connecticut, Illinois and Pennsylvania.
“Foreign contraband cigarettes are a public health hazard and cost Connecticut hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost tax revenue. The USPS is aware of these shipments and we are taking action to compel them to do their job and stop this illegal smuggling,” said Attorney General Tong.
California and NYC investigators performing a package audit at USPS’s facility at John F. Kennedy International Airport in 2018 found over 100,000 cartons containing more than a million packs of untaxed cigarettes during a single nine-day period. The packages originated primarily from Vietnam, China, and Israel, with lesser amounts from Japan, Korea, Kyrgyzstan and Ukraine. During that nine-day period at that single facility, investigators found 474 cartons of cigarettes destined for Connecticut, amounting to an estimated excise tax loss of $20,619 to the state. On an annual basis, that would create an estimate tax loss of approximately $357,400 from that single JFK facility alone.
Smoking kills over 480,000 people nationwide each year, including 4,900 in Connecticut. Connecticut residents spend approximately $2.03 billion each year in healthcare costs related to smoking. Public health and economic costs of tobacco have compelled all levels of government to strictly regulate the sale and use of tobacco. One way states discourage smoking is by increasing the cost of smoking through imposition of cigarette taxes.
Connecticut’s excise tax on cigarettes is currently $4.35 per pack, or $43.50 per carton.
Assistant Attorneys General Heather Wilson and Joseph Chambers, Finance Department Head are assisting the Attorney General in this matter.