Lockyer To File Suit Against Five Internet Cigarette Vendors for Alleged Sales to Minors
Attorney General Bill Lockyer (D) today plans to file suit in San Diego Superior Court against five out-of-state Internet tobacco vendors over allegations that they sold tobacco to minors and avoided state cigarette taxes, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. According to the lawsuit, the Office of the Attorney General has cooperated with authorities in 39 other states on the case, and many of the other states plan to file similar suits in the next few weeks. The case began after an undercover investigation found that minors had "no trouble" with the purchase of cigarettes online, Laura Kaplan, a deputy attorney general, said. "Basically, these Web sites simply ask if you're 18. If you say yes, and you have a credit card, you can make the purchase," she said. Kaplan did not comment on the number of illegal sales conducted over the Internet; however, according to the Chronicle, Internet sales account for "a very small fraction" of cigarette sales to minors. The attorney general's office selected the five Internet vendors -- Dirt Cheap Cigarettes in Missouri, Smokin 4 Less in Virginia, Cycocigs.com in New Mexico, eSmokes in Florida and Cigoutlet.com in Virginia -- because they have no affiliation with Indian tribes and cannot raise issues of sovereignty, the Chronicle reports. Rick Urrea, president of Cycocigs.com, said that in response to the lawsuit, the company plans to begin to require an adult's signature to receive a shipment of cigarettes. Urrea added that the company will fight the allegation of tax evasion (Lazarus, San Francisco Chronicle, 4/1).
In other tobacco news, the San Jose-based Billy DeFrank Community Center has launched a "provocative" new campaign called "Cigarettes Are My Greatest Enemy" to help reduce smoking in the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities, the San Jose Mercury News reports. The rate of tobacco use among the gay and lesbian communities is three times higher than that of the general population, the News reports. The campaign, funded by a $260,000 grant from the American Legacy Foundation, features local residents who make claims such as: "I didn't survive gay bashing so I could die from lung cancer. I had to stop smoking," and "I didn't survive drugs and alcohol so I could die from lung cancer. I had to stop smoking." Patrick Soricone, executive director of the DeFrank Center, said, "Some people are outraged -- they view the campaign as too negative because it doesn't try to encourage smoking cessation from a more positive perspective. They're pretty hard-hitting ads, and they are getting people's attention, so that's a good thing." The rate of tobacco use among the gay and lesbian communities is three times higher than that of the general population, the News reports (Guido, San Jose Mercury News, 4/1).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.