WASHINGTON—The U.S. Senate passed the Preventing Online Sales of E-Cigarettes to Children Act (S.1253) by unanimous consent on July 1. The legislation seeks to close the online loophole of e-cigarette sales to minors by applying the same measures that are required when traditional cigarettes are purchased online. The House passed its version of the bill last year.
According to a study published in 2018 by the American Journal of Health Promotion, the internet is the most common retail source of e-cigarettes to minors. The problem exists because age verification is not required upon delivery of e-cigarettes purchased online, even though age verification is required on other products purchased over the internet.
NACS strongly supports S. 1253, which ensures responsible retailing of e-cigarettes and age verification across all channels. The legislation would require online sellers of e-cigarettes to ensure the delivery carrier verifies the age of the recipient upon delivery. It would also require online sellers to collect and remit the appropriate state and local taxes.
These measures are already in place for cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products purchased over the internet because of a bill that Congress passed in 2010, the Prevent All Cigarette Trafficking (PACT) Act, which NACS championed. However, e-cigarettes were not prevalent in the marketplace when the law was passed.
The Senate bill, which updates the PACT Act to include e-cigarette and vaping products, was introduced by Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-California) and John Cornyn (R-Texas) last spring.
“It's been long in coming, but finally the Senate has now passed legislation that requires the same proof of age requirement that is needed for tobacco products for e-cigarettes and vaping products, particularly those that are sold over the internet,” stated Senator Cornyn in his speech on the Senate floor.
“According to a report last year, more than a quarter of all high school students and one in 10 middle school students had vaped in the previous 30 days, despite the fact that they are underage and should not have legally been able to buy e-cigarettes,” Senator Feinstein said in a statement. “Age verification for purchasing e-cigarettes online remains practically nonexistent, and it’s time we start regulating these products at least as much as we do traditional cigarettes.”
After Wednesday’s vote, the legislation is one step closer to becoming law. Last October, the House passed its version of the bill (H.R. 3942) on suspension. Given that the Senate bill is slightly different than the House version, the House will need to pass the Senate’s version before it can become law.