Illegal cigarette truck shipping ring busted by new york authorities

It turns out that cigarettes do more than just harm your health. They affect your bottom line too.

For the second time in recent months, a trucking company is in trouble with the law after it s alleged that the firm shipped contraband cigarettes to New York City residents as part of an illegal shipping network.

LaserShip, a Virginia based last mile package delivery service, has been sued by New York City Corporation Counsel Michael A. Cardozo, Health Commissioner Thomas A. Farley, and Finance Commissioner Beth E. Goldman, for its role in the delivery of «untaxed» cigarettes. Shipping and delivering cigarettes that are untaxed is illegal under the federal Contraband Cigarette Trafficking Act (CCTA), the federal Prevent All Cigarette Trafficking Act (PACT), federal racketeering statutes, and New York state laws.

According to the complaint, LaserShip worked within a broader delivery network that avoided the requirements of the PACT Act. Under the PACT Act, cigarette sellers are required to assure all taxes are paid on the cigarettes shipped to consumers.

The delivery network was broken up by authorities in May 2013 when the city obtained a court injunction against Regional Integrated Logistics, a Buffalo, NY, logistics firm alleged to have been shipping untaxed cigarettes nationwide. The suit claims LaserShip joined the network in 2011 and shipped approximately 75,000 cartons of cigarettes into New York City prior to May 2013.

«All businesses, especially the package delivery industry, must understand the enormous legal penalties they face in doing business with cigarette traffickers. If you engage in these illegal activities, we will take aggressive action,» said Cardozo.

In September, four New York State District Attorneys announced a settlement with R L Carriers for its involvement with shipping illegal cigarettes. The agreement made no admission of guilt on R L s part, but the company did make a $140,000 payment to the American Lung Assn. and the American Cancer Society as part of the agreement, which also called for R L to set up compliance procedures to avoid future violations and an agreement of cooperation from R L with what is a continuing investigation into illegal shipments of cigarettes within the state.

«In addition to putting honest businesses at a competitive disadvantage, LaserShip s actions cost nearly $4.4 million to the state and city in foregone cigarette tax revenue used to fund vital services,» said Goldman.

Federal law provides for penalties of up to $5,000 per violation for violations of the PACT Act or the CCTA, as well as treble (or triple) damages under federal racketeering statutes, which classifies cigarette trafficking as a «racketeering» offense. New York state law provides for a maximum penalty of $5,000 per delivery or $100 per pack of cigarettes delivered to a consumer, whichever is greater.

The city s lawsuit also invokes Public Health Law 1399 ll, which prohibits carriers from delivering cigarettes to consumers.

What these two cases say, however, is that trucking companies must have some awareness of what is being shipped. R L admitted no wrongdoing in its settlement and LaserShip alleged involvement is now in the courts, so it s difficult to say whether either company knowingly broke the law or not. Regardless, it is clear that, at least in New York State, violations of this kind are going to be pursued and prosecuted if necessary.

Carriers, then, could become unknowing accomplices and could face fines, criminal prosecution and a severe hit to their reputation if they are caught hauling illegal goods. And the old adage, «what you don t know won t hurt you,» does not apply in this case. Carriers must be aware of what they are hauling and build relationships with shippers to ensure that what is said to be loaded in their trailers are really what is being loaded.

If not, the authorities may be close behind.

Are electronic cigarettes safe?

What is it that makes electronic cigarettes safe? The answer lies in what they re not, perhaps rather more than what they are. In a word, they are not regular, tobacco burning cigarettes and therein lies the key.

With no tobacco to burn, there is no smoke. And it is the smoke that is universally acknowledged to pose the major health risks to the smoker and those around him or her. Tobacco smoke has been shown to contain a whole host of carcinogens and these, of course, can prove seriously damaging to anyone s health and can even prove lethal.

Instead of burning tobacco to deliver a dose of nicotine to the smoker s lungs (and a cloud of noxious fumes to anyone who happens to be nearby), electronic cigarettes atomize an inert liquid containing harmless flavorings and a similar, carefully measured dose of nicotine or even a completely nicotine free vapor, for those who have no craving for the drug. In this way, it is possible to enjoy the experience that smoking undoubtedly brings to many people, but without the health damaging effects of inhaling dangerous tobacco smoke and polluting the air with equally offensive and annoying second hand smoke.

The absence of any smoke, therefore, is the single most critical advantage of the electronic cigarette and the overriding reason for their being described as safe.

Furthermore, since there is no tobacco to be lit, there is no fire, no combustion, and no burning ember all factors that have contributed to innumerable accidents involving fatal fires sparked by a poorly extinguished cigarette. The electronic cigarette, of course, is never going to expose you to that particular danger in that respect, they are totally safe.

or are they?

In this day and age, you could probably spend a lifetime in search of universal agreement on any product guaranteed to be completely, 100% safe. It will come as no surprise, therefore, that the electronic cigarette also has its detractors. Given what we ve had to say about the safety of the e cigarette s water vapor compared with the toxicity of tobacco smoke why is that the case?

The World Health Organization, for example, scorns claims that electronic cigarettes are safe. They point to the fact that the majority of the devices still contain nicotine and, so, do nothing to wean users away from their nicotine addiction. They also cite as a particular danger the risk of the user swallowing spilt or leaking liquid nicotine while smoking an electronic cigarette (though is will have such a disgusting taste that the user will make sure that such accidents don t happen on anything like a regular basis).

Some opponents also claim that there are potential health risks associated with the fluid used in the cartridges of practically all e cigarettes and, in particular, the commonly used chemical propylene glycol. This, say the detractors, is harmful to the health not only of the e cigarette user, but also to those around him or her. This is a considerably more difficult objection to understand, however, since propylene glycol has been approved for use by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and is an ingredient of a whole host of other products from medicines to cosmetics, other inhalants and toothpaste.

The verdict

Electronic cigarettes are by no means the only product perfectly legally on sale, but which certain individuals or organizations nevertheless consider to be unsafe. It should be noted, however, that even the most vehement opponents of e cigarettes nevertheless concede that they are relatively much safer than traditional cigarettes .

In deciding whether smokeless cigarettes are safe, therefore, it seems important to retain a degree of balance and perspective. Very few products on the market today could be labeled 100% safe and the e cigarette certainly has its opponents. Even the latter, however, will reassure you that using an electronic cigarette is a lot safer than smoking the tobacco filled variety.


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