Attorney General Becerra Files Lawsuit Against United States Postal Service for Illegally Accepting and Delivering Millions of Foreign Cigarettes

Tuesday, October 22, 2019
Contact: (916) 210-6000,

SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, alongside New York City, today filed a lawsuit against the United States Postal Service (USPS) for accepting and then delivering millions of foreign cigarettes destined for residents of California and New York City. 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).

“Accepting and delivering contraband cigarettes is not only a health hazard for our citizens but a detriment to our state’s economy,” said Attorney General Xavier Becerra. “The California Department of Justice will remain vigilant in pursuing contraband cigarettes that are smuggled into California.” 

The PACT Act was established to curtail the flow of tax-evading contraband cigarettes, create strong disincentives to illegal smuggling of tobacco products, provide government officials with more effective tools to combat tobacco smuggling, and reduce youth smoking. The lawsuit alleges that USPS delivered and continues to deliver large quantities of packages into California that it knows or has reasonable cause to believe contain untaxed cigarettes in violation of these laws. The California Attorney General’s Office, alongside state and local officials, has consistently reported to USPS that cigarettes enter domestic mail through the international mail stream, even identifying to USPS particular cigarette sellers by name. In the complaint, the California Department of Justice and other plaintiffs allege that USPS was aware of these illicit deliveries and failed to stop them. The lawsuit seeks a halt to these violations and aims to require USPS take the necessary steps to implement effective policies and procedures designed to ensure these activities are prevented in the future.

Smoking remains the number one preventable killer in the United States and causes over 480,000 deaths per year. Attorney General Becerra is committed to combating tobacco usage. In August, California and Nebraska co-led a bipartisan coalition of 43 attorneys general in urging the video streaming industry to limit tobacco use in their video content. In October, Attorney General Becerra announced $30.5 million in state grants to combat illegal tobacco use among minors. The Tobacco Grant Program funds minor decoy operations, retailer training programs, the installation of signage, youth outreach, tobacco retail license inspections, training for sworn personnel, hiring additional school resource officers, and other activities.

A copy of the complaint is available here.


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