E-Cigarettes: Updating the PACT Act

Last Updated: January 14, 2020

The Issue

The Prevent all Cigarette Trafficking Act (PACT Act) became law in 2010 to help deal with problems stemming from Internet sales of cigarettes. Before the PACT Act, there were two principal problems with these sales – there was no reliable age verification of the purchasers and there was evasion of state and local taxes on the sales. The PACT Act corrected these issues by requiring internet tobacco sellers to ensure that age is verified by the delivery agent upon delivery of the product and by requiring the collection and remittance of all state and local taxes.

When the PACT Act was originally introduced, its sponsors were not aware of electronic cigarettes because they were just coming onto the market. However, today, we know that e-cigarette usage among minors is higher than ever. According to a study published by the American Journal of Health Promotion, the most common retail source of e-cigarettes to minors is the Internet, with more than 32% of minors who bought e-cigarettes at retail reported to have acquired the products online.

In 2019, members of Congress introduced the Preventing Online Sales of E-Cigarettes to Children Act which seeks to close the loophole of online sales of e-cigarettes to minors by applying the same measures already in place for cigarettes and smokeless tobacco. The Senate bill (S. 1253) was introduced by Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), John Cornyn (R-TX) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and the House bill (H.R. 3942) was introduced by Representatives Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Kelly Armstrong (R-ND). The House of Representatives passed their version of the bill by unanimous consent in October 2019.

Retail Impact

When an e-cigarette product is purchased in a convenience store, the age is verified at point-of sale-before the adult customer receives the product. Updating the PACT Act to apply to e-cigarettes would ensure that an adult’s age is verified by an in-person ID check when an e-cigarette product is delivered. Internet sellers of e-cigarette products would have to follow the same rules as sellers of traditional cigarettes.

NACS Position

NACS supports updating the PACT Act to cover e-cigarettes because it would level the playing field for these products as well as level the playing field for businesses that sell the products through different channels. This legislation advances the policy goal of preventing underage sales and provides a fair regulatory structure for businesses.