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For Immediate Release
December 3, 2003
Media Contact: 410-576-6357

ONLINE CIGARETTE SELLER TO CEASE MARYLAND SALES AND PAY $61,000 IN SETTLEMENT WITH CURRAN’S OFFICE

Attorney General J. Joseph Curran, Jr. today announced that the Consumer Protection Division of his office reached a settlement with the operators of the Web site www.dirtcheapcig.com, prohibiting them from selling cigarettes over the Internet to Maryland consumers and providing for payment of $61,000. The Consent Order resolves charges filed by the Division in June of this year alleging that the Web site sells cigarettes to minors and has failed to comply with Maryland cigarette tax and licensing laws.

" The settlement ensures that Maryland’s kids will have one less avenue for buying cigarettes through the anonymity of the Internet," Curran said. The charges alleged that Missouri-based Dirt Cheap allowed a minor, under supervision of Curran’s office, to purchase a carton of cigarettes without having to provide proof of age either to make the purchase or receive the shipment.

The charges further alleged that D.C., Inc., www.dirtcheapcig.com, Inc., and Fred Teutenberg, IV, the companies’ President, violated Maryland’s Consumer Protection Act by failing to obtain Maryland licenses and charge Maryland cigarette taxes as required to sell cigarettes to Maryland residents. Curran said that one of the reasons the General Assembly increased the taxes on cigarette sales to $1.00 per pack is to deter minors from buying cigarettes.

In addition to Dirt Cheap’s agreement to no longer make cigarette sales to Maryland residents, the Web site’s operators agreed to pay $60,000 for restitution and consumer education and $1,000 costs. Under the settlement, the Web site’s operators deny the allegations in the charges filed by the Division.

Curran noted that more than 80 percent of regular smokers began smoking as children and more than 2,000 children begin smoking each day. Curran added that smoking is considered a pediatric epidemic and is the nation’s leading cause of preventable deaths, accounting for more than 400,000 deaths each year. Studies have shown that the younger a person is when he or she begins smoking, the more likely it is he or she will be unable to quit later in life and will suffer a disease attributable to tobacco use.

Attorney General Curran has attacked youth access to cigarettes and tobacco products on numerous fronts. The 1998 Master Settlement Agreement required the tobacco industry to halt its advertising targeting youths. Curran has focused on retailers by entering into agreements with BP Amoco, ExxonMobil, Walgreens and Wal-mart that require the retailers to adopt policies to reduce the sale of tobacco products to minors at its locations in Maryland, and by developing a comprehensive enforcement effort with tobacco retailers who want to adopt policies and practices designed to reduce youth sales. The Attorney General’s Tobacco Retailers Guide; Reducing Youth Access to Tobacco Products, which Curran distributed to Maryland’s 7,000 tobacco retailers, is available at his Office’s web site at http://www.oag.state.md.us/Tobacco/youthaccess.htm. The Guide sets forth the law prohibiting the sale of cigarettes to those under 18 years of age and details the criminal penalties–from $300 to $3,000 per violation–for selling cigarettes to minors. The settlement announced today represents the latest effort of the Office to prevent minors’ access to cigarettes by going directly to the point of sale.

Consumers having questions about this matter may call the Division at (410) 528-8662.

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