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Candidate Lutz says Hunter bill creates black market for cigarettes

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Ray Lutz
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Ray Lutz for Congress 2010

Media Contact: Brennan Purtzer, Media Director
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Candidate Lutz says Hunter bill creates black market for cigarettes

Rep. Hunter's bill specifically removes non-commercial shipping clause

San Diego County, Calif. (August 5, 2010) "This isn't about disrespecting or denying the troops, this is a policy goof-up," said Democratic Congressional Candidate Ray Lutz. "Hunter's attempt is honorable but misguided. There's a better way to solve this problem that doesn't fund a black market that may support terrorists."

Lutz, 52, was responding to a bill introduced last week by freshman Republican Congressman Duncan D. Hunter. Lutz is campaigning for Hunter's 52nd Congressional District seat.

Hunter's bill (HR 6037) amends a Senate bill, known as "PACT-act," which went into effect June 17, 2010 (S.1147). The Hunter bill allows tobacco products to be shipped to soldiers serving in combat zones unconditionally, which Lutz says is overly-broad and creates the opportunity for abuse. The PACT-act currently allows up to ten shipments per month a maximum of ten ounces per shipment (totaling about 100 packs per month) shipped Express Mail only, for age verification purposes.

"Part of the goal of the act was to end illegal trafficking in cigarettes, which, along with the opium trade, is believed to be fueling the insurgency," Lutz said. "Lifting the weight, frequency and non-commercial requirements of PACT kicks opens the dangerous door it took Senator Kohl (D-Wis.) eight years to shut."

Lutz continued, "Many legislators complain that there are too many laws, too many loopholes and exemptions, but now, instead of simply getting the United States Postal Service to change their requirements, Congressman Hunter is actually writing legislation to exempt black market trade."

Lutz says the problem lies with the U.S. Postal Service's regulations and is not something we need to create new federal legislation to correct.

Postal regulations require that tobacco products be mailed using Express postage -- so that a signature is required when delivered -- to help ensure that the package is not delivered into the hands of children. However, Express Mail service does not deliver to the combat theaters of Iraq and Afghanistan, leaving combat soldiers unable to receive such shipments.

A legislative aid who worked on the original PACT-act, said the solution was simple: amend the U.S. Postal Service requirements to allow such care packages to be shipped as International Priority Mail with a signature option. Such an arrangement would satisfy PACT's goals, and would cost families less to ship.

Another Senate legislative aid said that the Pentagon, which has been strongly discouraging smoking among its servicemen for decades, hadn't expressed any concern over the PACT-act whatsoever. "Buying cigarettes over there is cheaper anyway," the aid said.

"A simple, non-legislative solution is available, yet Hunter's proposal opens the door for unbridled tobacco trafficking," Lutz said. "It makes you wonder why Hunter would provide a means for terrorists to raise money on tobacco along with opium and other drugs. Has he switched sides? That's what I want to know."

Rep. Hunter, a reserve Marine captain, has so far received at least $6,000 from tobacco-related PACs for his 2010 election campaign.
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