Office of the Attorney General News Release Archive

Wednesday, December 27, 2000

CORNYN SUES TO ENSURE NO INTERNET TOBACCO SALES TO MINORS

'Supercheapcigarettes.com' Cited; Petition Requires Valid ID Checks

AUSTIN - Texas Attorney General John Cornyn filed a petition for injunction today, naming the online tobacco merchant E-Commerce Today, Ltd., with its website "Supercheapcigarettes.com." The lawsuit alleges that the Virginia-based company, which is not registered to conduct business in Texas, is liable for failing to take promised precautions against Internet sales of tobacco products to minors in Texas.

Sales of tobacco products in Texas to those under 18 is prohibited and can be prosecuted as a criminal offense.

"Studies have shown that more than 80 percent of adult smokers began their habit by age 18, with more than 50 percent indicating they started smoking by age 15," said Attorney General Cornyn. "It's clear why smoking is now considered a 'pediatric disease.' Those who fail to act responsibly to protect our children from tobacco marketing are threatening the health of our young people for profit, and the state of Texas will not tolerate that. These businesses should play by the same rules as bricks-and-mortar retailers in verifying ages of buyers."

The Attorney General filed today's suit under the Deceptive Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Act and alleges that E-Commerce Today:

  • Misrepresents that it maintains a system to prevent sales of tobacco to minors;
  • Fails to verify that online purchasers are at least 18, when the company represents to the public that it requires this for every purchase;
  • Allows the delivery of tobacco products to purchasers without ensuring that an adult over the age of 18 signs for the purchase, as it claims it does.

E-Commerce Today's web site advertises that customers may order cigarettes at discount prices "from the comfort and safety of your own home and have them delivered to your door." The company accepts major credit cards or money orders.

The Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division and Internet Bureau conducted the investigation of the company. In their investigation, these officials allege that sales transactions occurred over the Internet even after the undercover purchasers entered dates of birth showing he or she was not 18 or older (a date-of-birth data entry is required). With money order purchases, the investigators allege that the company made no effort whatsoever to ascertain the age of the buyer.

Although AG investigators used no minors in these transactions, the company allegedly made no effort to determine that.

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Contact Mark Heckmann, Heather Browne, or Tom Kelley at (512) 463-2050
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