SW Legal studies in Business

Federal Control of Interstate Carriers of Tobacco Preempts State Law in the Area
Description

Supreme Court held that Maine could not adopt a comprehensive regulatory scheme over the delivery of tobacco products that imposed strict requirements on delivery companies. Federal law specifically preempted state regulation of such carriers.

Topic Constitutional Law
Key Words

Federal Preemption; State Regulation; Public Health

C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts

Maine law specifies that a state-licensed tobacco shipper must use a delivery company that provides a recipient-verification service that confirms that the buyer of tobacco products by mail is of legal age. The law also states, in prohibiting unlicensed tobacco shipments into the state, that a person is deemed to know that a package contains tobacco if it is marked as originating from a Maine-licensed tobacco retailer or if it is received from someone whose name appears on an official list that the state gives to package-delivery companies that details the names unlicensed tobacco retailers. These provisions of Maine law were referred to as recipient verification and deemed-to-know. Shippers challenged these provisions of the law as in conflict with federal law. The district court struck down the Maine laws. The appeals court agreed. Maine appealed to the Supreme Court.

Decision

Affirmed. The Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 voided state enforcement of consumer fraud statutes related to airline routes, rates and services. The Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act of 1994 specifically prohibited state action related to prices, routes and services of motor carriers. The Maine laws are preempted. The recipient-verification provision focuses on trucking services, which is a part of motor carrier services, and the regulation has a significant impact on carrier operation. The deemed-to-know provision applies specifically to motor carriers, as they must follow state regulations carefully about where tobacco comes from and who it goes to. The carriers must examine every package to satisfy state law. The state argues that this protects the public health of minors by making it more difficult for them to obtain tobacco products. That motive is good, but is not adequate to allow the state to ignore specific federal regulation of the area.

Citation

Rowe v. New Hampshire Motor Transport Assn., 128 S.Ct. 989 (Sup. Ct., 2008)

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