Postal service plans to resume mailing cigarettes, tobacco to soldiers in Iraq, Afghanistan

By Kristin M. Hall, AP
Thursday, August 12, 2010

Tobacco shipments to resume to soldiers overseas

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The U.S. Postal Service said Thursday that it plans to resume shipping care packages with cigarettes and other tobacco to soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

A law aimed at preventing smuggling had unintentionally banned families from sending tobacco to military members serving overseas. Spokesman Greg Frey said the postal service is planning to issue new instructions that could allow shipments to resume possibly as soon as Aug. 27.

The Prevent All Cigarette Trafficking Act of 2009 quietly took effect June 29 and was created to prevent minors from ordering cigarettes through the mail. It allowed for small shipments of tobacco but required a way to verify the recipient was old enough — meaning the only way to ship the packages through the postal service was by Express Mail, which requires a signature.

However, Express Mail doesn’t deliver to most overseas military addresses.

“It’s a very delicate balancing act to remain in compliance with the law and serve the needs of our customers and in this particular case those brave men and women overseas,” Frey said.

The new instructions would allow tobacco shipments to military addresses through Priority Mail, which does ship to deployed troops, with delivery confirmation instead.

U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl, the bill’s sponsor, said in a statement that he was notified Thursday of the new instructions.

“I’m pleased that the Postal Service responded so quickly to the concerns of our military families and found a way to honor the original intent of the bill: to keep cigarettes out of the hands of children and prevent tobacco smugglers from profiting on the black market,” he said.

Kohl recently sent a letter to the Postmaster General asking him to change the regulations, because the bill also expressly permits the shipping of tobacco from adult to adult, including to military addresses.

Following the law’s enactment, family members of soldiers were turned away when they tried to send care packages containing tobacco products to combat troops. The law only affects the U.S. Postal Service because UPS and FedEx do not allow consumer-to-consumer shipping of tobacco.

Rep. Anthony Weiner was the primary house member on the act and said the law was intended to stop the black market sales of cigarettes, not stop soldiers from getting smokes.

“We have made it clear that our troops overseas may still get care packages with cigarettes,” he said.

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