I can't believe how this has really taken on a life of its own, I realize that my first message about this government trouble was vague, that's mainly because I was shocked, a little frightened, and at a loss to know exactly how to react.
I sincerely apologize if my first message caused undue excitement with anyone, that was certainly not my intent, I just wanted to make sure that something got out about this, just in case...
Now that a day has gone by, and I can look at this with fresh eyes, my perspective has changed a bit on this matter. that along with all the support I have received here and elsewhere has made me feel a lot better. I wanted to wait until I found out a little more information about this issue before posting the full story here, but this has caused such a brouhaha all over the net, I wanted to go ahead and fill everyone in on what is going on.
First, I don't really think my blog is in danger of being shut down, at least I hope not, I just wanted to make sure at least part of this story got out there just in case the feds decided to pull the plug on my site (oops, what site???), I doubt that would really happen, but I didn't think I would be receiving that letter in the mail either, that along with the fact that the agency responsible for sending that letter HAS visited my blog on several occasions, I assume that it is probably related.
OK, now to the issue. Here is the deal, I have been buying cigarettes from Europe (European made for Europeans), I have been doing this for a year and a half. I typically order between X and X cartons at a time, the time before last, I ordered X (more than usual) cartons, mainly because it is getting more and more difficult to pay for these, the overseas companies have a hard time keeping credit card vendors and other payment methods for any length of time, I didn't understand until now what that is. Our wonderful government has requested that the merchant account (credit card payment places) not do business with these overseas cigarette sellers, so each time I have ordered cigarettes, I have had to pay with a different method, I have paid with my bank card, PayPal, AlertPay, bank transfers, each time I got my cigarettes with no problems.
I chose to remove the exact number of cartons I order, I don't want to give "them" any more ammo to use against me than I have to.
So this time I had decided to order more cigarettes than usual to make sure I would still have plenty of cigarettes and not run out before my next order, in case the next order took longer than usual to come in, it could take anywhere from 2 weeks to a month to come in. Anyhoo, I ordered X cartons, I suspect that is when I was flagged by the gov, or it could have been when I was blogging about how to order cigarettes from overseas, maybe that is what drew the attention of homeland security and the border patrol. I am in no way selling, trading or bartering with these cigarettes, they are strictly for personal use. The latest order of cigarettes never arrived, but this letter did.
I received a letter from the border patrol/dept of homeland security stating that my cigarettes had been intercepted, Here is what the letter said, I highlighted key phrases that I find interesting:
U.S Customs and Border Protection
Informed Compliance Notice for Cigarettes Imported Through the Mail
This is to notify you that the U.S.Customs and Border Protection (CBP) had interdicted a U.S. Mail package addressed to you that contains cigarettes. Please be advised that the Imported Cigarette Compliance Act of 2000 (Act), which was codified under Title 19, United States Code, Section 1681, et seq. (10 USC1681, et seq.), imposed strict requirements for the lawful importation of cigarettes. This shipment does not compl with these requirements. The cigarettes are desctibed as follows
Reference# CIG-4701-86046 Description: Cigarettes 1 Box(s)
Cigarettes imported in violation of this Act are subject to seizure and forfeiture under the provisions of Title 19, United States Code, Section 1681a. However CBP has decided to allow you the option of voluntarily abandoning the property to the Government after which it will be destroyed in accordance with Title 41, Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Section 102-3 (41CFR 102-36). You can elect to do nothing in response to this notice. If you elect to do nothing, the cigarettes will be considered abandoned after 30 days and destroyed. Finally, you may elect to request that CBP commence seizure and forfeiture proceedings to allow you the opportunity to engage in a formal legal process to petition for the return of the property. Please be advised that no relief from seizure is vailable unless you prove the cigarettes were not imported in violation of the Imported Cigarette Compliance Act of 2000 and all other applicle laws.
Enclosed is an election of proceedings document. Please indicate your election, sign, date, and return the document to the address indicated on the document. Please note that future attempts to import cigarettes in violation of the Imported Cigarette Compliance Act of 2000 may result in personal penalties or criminal prosecution.
Please be aware that numerous Internet web sites are dispensing inaccurate information regarding the legality of cigarette shimpents into the United States. For further information, visit our website at http://cbp.gov and do a search for "Importation of Cigarettes" to read CBO's public directive regarding this subject.
end of letter
I tried going to their website and did the search they suggested, and NOTHING relevant comes up. When I look this up on the internet, I get conflicting information from the official gov sites. I don't know whether or not I should send in the form to contest this, they don't say what it is I have to do to prove that I'm not in violation, I can't even find that the stated violations are! What happened to innocent until proven guilty?
So far, what I have found indicates that it is legal to import cigarettes that are made in other countries (not made in the USA for import outside the USA, that has a whole different set of rules), I can import cigarettes for my own personal use, not for sale or resale which I am not doing, these are for personal use, but how do I prove that??? I can find lots of info relating to American citizens traveling outside the country and bringing back cigarettes purchased from duty free shops, but that is not what I am doing, there is a different set of rules/laws governing importing cigarettes for personal use, I just can't make heads or tails out of it.
I believe this is ultimately about money, taxes to be precise, every carton of cigarettes I purchase from another country is money that doesn't go into the government coffers, and that is something that upsets the powers that be.
This IS the same agency that has visited my blog, I have posted 2 messages about tobacco, the first was telling people how to buy cigarettes from Europe and save money, the other was about growing your own tobacco plants. I suspect that those two articles raised some flags with the powers that be, not only am I getting the benefits of not paying high prices and taxes for cigarettes, I am teaching other people how to do it. It is still possible that the visits from this government agency and the letter I received from the same agency are not related in any way, but I doubt that now.
I realize that not everyone is going to be sympathetic about the fact that this is about cigarettes, and I can appreciate that point of view, I do not smoke, this is for Mountain Man Bob, I wish he would quit, but as long as he chooses to do this, it's one of his very few vices, I will do everything I can to find the cheapest, legal way to buy these, and for now at least, buying them from Europe is the cheapest route, they cost about half what you would pay in the states. Before you make a judgment about what the item is about, remember that if the powers that be can stop me by using bullying scare techniques from LEGALLY purchasing a legal product for personal use, then eventually they can and will go after something you do care about, whether it be vitamins, herbs, alternative medicine, your choice of which doctor you want to go to, heirloom seeds, growing your own food (plants or animals), I could go on and on. This is about our individual freedoms that are being whittled away piece by piece under the guise of "we are doing this for your own good".
Oh, and one more thing, I am not trying to solicit money for this, now if you like my blog, feel free to donate or check out some of my sponsors, but that is not the purpose or motive of this post. I know that I mentioned in the first message that I don't have the money for a legal council, I assure you that was not a plea for funds, I doubt I would get enough to even begin to cover the costs of getting a lawyer and pursuing this. I would however, accept free legal advice or legal assistance on this matter.
Please feel free to spread this news around, the more people who are aware of what is going on, the better.
By the way, the cigarette company I am dealing with in all of this is treating me very well, they have gone above and beyond the call of duty on this issue and another issue I had on a previous order, if you are interested in knowing who this company is, email me and ask, and I'll give you the URL.
Thanks for visiting!