Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has won a court-ordered injunction to settle a dispute with a now-defunct New Mexico-based online merchant to ensure that no one under 18 may purchase its tobacco products over the Internet.

Cyco.Net Inc. was sued by the Attorney General in May 2003 as part of a coordinated crackdown against Internet scams. The injunction announced today prohibits the company from selling or delivering tobacco products in Texas unless it can establish a system to verify that its purchasers are at least 18 years old, as required by state laws for online sellers.

Brick and mortar tobacco retail merchants in Texas all must comply with this law or face serious penalties, said Attorney General Abbott. The same standard must apply to online retail merchants who target customers for the sale of their products. I am committed to protecting the health of Texas children because thats the law and we will enforce it vigorously.

Cyco.Net, which no longer does business via its former Web site, offered premium cigarettes at low prices. Consumers could place orders and pay for tobacco products online. The company gave consumers an incentive of 20 cents per carton for every new customer they referred to the site, noting that the use of the service was not restricted by age of customer.

Cyco.Nets site represented that it did not sell cigarettes to minors. All purchasers of cigarettes from us will be required to certify that they are of the age of majority. However, the company did not inquire of the prospective customers age or date of birth, nor did it require proof of identification. The company affixed a green stamp to the shipped packages noting adult signature required, but the U.S. Postal Service does not validate age of persons upon delivery.

Texas law regards tobacco addiction as a pediatric disease because more that 80 percent of smokers begin smoking by the age of 18, and more than 50 percent by age 15, according to studies. Thus, people who begin smoking at a young age are more likely to continue smoking and suffer tobacco-related health problems.

Because of this addiction and young peoples underestimation of tobaccos effects on their bodies, Texas law forbids the sale of these products to anyone under 27 years of age unless the person can prove he or she is at least 18.