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For Immediate Release
June 24, 2003
Contact: Sean Caine, 410-576-6357
scaine@oag.state.md.us

CURRAN’S OFFICE CHARGES ONLINE COMPANY
WITH SELLING CIGARETTES TO MINORS

Attorney General J. Joseph Curran, Jr. today announced that the Consumer Protection Division of his office has filed charges against the operators of the website www.dirtcheapcig.com, alleging that the website sells cigarettes to minors and has failed to comply with Maryland cigarette tax and licensing laws.

"The anonymity of the Internet makes it doubly important that sellers of cigarettes take steps to protect kids by ensuring that purchasers are old enough to legally buy cigarettes," Curran said. The charges allege that a minor, under supervision of Curran’s office, purchased a carton of cigarettes from Missouri-based Dirt Cheap without having to provide proof of age either to make the purchase or receive the shipment.

The charges further allege 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.

According to the charges, more than 80 percent of regular smokers began smoking as children and more than 2,000 children begin smoking each day. Studies have shown that, the younger a person is when they begin smoking, the more likely it is they will be unable to quit later in life and will suffer a disease attributable to tobacco use.

The charges ask that Teutenberg and the companies be ordered to cease and desist from violating the Consumer Protection Act and to pay restitution, civil penalties and costs. A hearing on the charges is scheduled to begin on Thursday, September 18, 2003 at the Office of Administrative Hearings, 11101 Gilroy Road in Hunt Valley, Maryland.

A cornerstone of his administration, Attorney General Curran has attacked youth access to cigarettes and tobacco products on numerous fronts. The 1998 Master Settlement Agreement required Big Tobacco to halt its advertising targeting youths. Additionally, Attorney General Curran has targeted retailers by entering into agreements with BP Amoco, ExxonMobil and Walgreens 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. Curran's office recently distributed his Tobacco Retailers Guide; Reducing Youth Access to Tobacco Products (see http://www.oag.state.md.us/Tobacco/youthaccess.htm) to Maryland's 7,000 tobacco retailers. 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. Any retailer selling tobacco products to minors could be subject to civil and criminal sanctions depending upon where the violation occurs. This action 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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