Buried in a massive omnibus spending bill that aims to keep the government funded through September 2021 and provide much-needed assistance during the pandemic, there seems to be a sneaky provision that spells doom for vapers across the country. This provision will also make it considerably harder for small businesses to continue operating. Let’s break down the language of the bill, and what the likely outcomes will be.
What does the Act say?
Section 1253 on page 5136 of the 5500+ page package refers to the “Preventing Online Sales of E-Cigarettes to Children Act”, but is known colloquially as the ‘vape mail ban’.
This is primarily because the law will require the US Postal Service to create regulations that will ban the delivery of vaping products within 120 days.
However, this is far from the only change that will be implemented. The law will also require manufacturers of vaping products (whether they contain nicotine or not) to comply with the PACT or Prevent All Cigarette Trafficking Act.
This will require online retailers to do the following:
- Register with the US Attorney General
- Verify the age of all customers through a database
- Use private shipping services that require the signature of an adult on delivery
- If operating in states that tax vape products, manufacturers must register with the federal government and the tobacco tax administrators of individual states
- Collect all applicable local and state taxes
- Affix required tax stamps to products sold
- Send each state’s tax administrator:
- A list of all transactions with customers in the state
- Include names and addresses of customers sold to
- Include quantities and type of product sold to the above
- Maintain records for five years of any “delivery interrupted because the carrier or service determines or has reason to believe that the person ordering the delivery is in violation of the [PACT Act]”
Sellers who don’t follow the above guidelines will be subject to serious penalties, including up to 3 years in prison. These provisions are to take effect in 90 days. Retailers will likely be studying the new law in detail to figure out if they will be able to function under the new requirements.
What does this mean for businesses?
With the USPS off limits, retailers will turn to private delivery services. However, it isn’t that simple. Private delivery services like FedEx will face mounting pressure to follow the lead of the USPS – like FedEx already has.
“As of March 1, 2021, FedEx will begin prohibiting electronic cigarettes, vaping liquids, and other vaping products in the FedEx global network,” a spokesperson for the company told the publication Vaping360 last Friday.
Sellers who don’t follow the PACT guidelines will be subject to serious penalties, including up to 3 years in prison. These provisions are to take effect in 90 days. Retailers will likely be studying the new law in detail to figure out if they will be able to function under the new requirements. While the PACT provisions do not constitute an all-out ban, most online vapor business simply don’t have the infrastructure to comply with these detailed requirements.
American Vaping Association President Gregory Conley succinctly stated, “If the increase in shipping costs wasn’t enough, the bill also imposes huge paperwork burdens on small retailers, and backs it up with threats of imprisonment for even innocent mistakes. This is not a law designed to regulate the mail-order sale of vaping products to adults; it’s an attempt to eliminate it.”
What does this mean for consumers?
An important consideration to make, is that private shipping services often don’t even deliver mail to all parts of the United States, and frequently outsource deliveries to rural or remote areas to the USPS in order to cut costs. If the USPS is no longer able to pick up those deliveries, it makes it likely that some people will have no way of purchasing vaping products.
For others, it probably means higher prices (since private shipping services are more expensive). One can also expect more private companies to follow suit and ban vaping products as well.
Can’t consumers just visit stores instead?
Unfortunately, not all vapers have access to physical locations due to their geography, or health and disabilities. In contrast, cigarettes continue to be freely visible and accessible for consumption.
The language of the law also appears to include those who vape non-nicotine e-liquids, such as those containing CBD or THC oil. The exact definition of an “electronic nicotine delivery system” as stated in the law is “any electronic device that, through an aerosolized solution, delivers nicotine, flavor, or any other substance to the user inhaling from the device.” The inclusion of any other substance covers virtually every e-liquid out there.
These e-liquids are sometimes used by consumers for therapeutic purposes, those that will doubtless be hard-pressed to find physical locations for the products they depend on.
Will this law help in some way?
While it was created ostensibly to prevent teens from getting their hands on vapor products, it blatantly ignores the reality that less than 6% of youth get access to vapor products online, according to the CDC’s own survey.
Most teens that get access to vapor products do so from friends and family or illicit sources, the latter likely to rise in prominence with this new legislation.
Veppo Vape Team
Gina King is the brand manager for Veppo, a family run brand offering select, tested, high quality vape pen vaporizers, e-liquid and e-cigars. Over the past 12 years, Veppo has provided more than 250,000 customers a friendly alternative to cigarettes.
Gina is a mother, writer, traveler and speaker and has been featured on HuffPost, Forbes, Elite Daily and more.