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Skretny Denies Bid to Stop Internet Cigarette Sales Ban

By Mark Scott

Buffalo, NY – Federal Court Judge William Skretny Monday denied a temporary restraining order to stop a state-imposed ban on the sale of cigarettes over the Internet.

The state began enforcing its ban on Internet cigarette sales last week. The action was condemned, especially by the Seneca Nation of Indians, because many of the tax-free online businesses have been set up by retailers on the Seneca's two reservations.

Judge Skretny said the state law is a legitimate public health statute, designed to stop under-age smoking, rather than simply an effort to collect a tax. But Joseph Crangle, a Buffalo attorney representing Seneca retailers and a national online sales group, said he disagrees.

"There's no question that this is a tax issue," Crangle said. "Everybody in Albany knows this was referred to the Assembly's Ways and Means Committee, not the Health Committee. It is 100 percent a tax issue."

Crangle argues New York is trying to regulate interstate and Native American commerce and that's unconstitutional. Both sides will be back in court Friday morning for a status conference.

Crangle said he remains confident the Senecas will prevail.