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US Supreme Court hears Maine tobacco delivery law case

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] heard oral arguments [transcript, PDF] Wednesday in Rowe v. New Hampshire Motor Transport [LII case backgrounder; merit briefs], 06-457, where the Court is considering whether a Maine tobacco transport law is preempted by federal law. In 2003, Maine passed a law requiring special inspection of incoming tobacco packages to prevent purchases from unlicensed retailers who might sell to minors. In 2005, the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit found [opinion] that the Maine law was preempted by the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act of 1994 (FAAAA) [text], which limits state regulation of interstate air and motor carriers.

The Maine law is targeted at preventing Internet tobacco sales [GAO report] to minors, and lawyers from the Maine attorney general's office argued that the FAAAA was not intended to reach public health issues. Critics of the law say that such regulation must come from Congress. With at least 40 states regulating tobacco delivery from Internet purchases, delivery companies face widely varied state standards. Justice David Souter said that the FAAAA intended to deregulate the shipping industry, and questioned whether the law created any exceptions. AP has more.

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