United Parcel Service Inc. on Monday said it will stop delivering cigarettes to consumers in the United States in an agreement aimed at reducing Internet access to cigarettes by underage smokers.
The agreement between the world's largest package shipping company and New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, follows a similar deal made with Deutsche Post unit DHL, the attorney general's office said in a news release.
The decision came as UPS has had to deal with a patchwork of state and local laws regarding shipping of cigarettes, many of which have been enacted in the past two years, UPS spokesman Steve Holmes said.
"This was a business decision to put in a consistent policy for the entire country, which allowed us to operate effectively
and efficiently," Holmes said. He added that the number of cigarettes the company shipped to consumers was "minimal."
The agreement does not prohibit UPS from making lawful shipments of cigarettes to licensed tobacco businesses and other authorized recipients, the attorney general's office said.
Law enforcement officials argue that selling cigarettes over the Internet leads to violations of state laws involving age-verification of buyers and also avoids the payment of taxes.
"UPS is such a large (shipping) player that it made sense to us, if we're trying to bring the shipping industry in line with state and federal laws, if you have UPS on your side, you are closer to achieving that goal," Marc Violette, a spokesman for the attorney general, said.
UPS was not threatened with any legal action during negotiations on the deal, Violette said.