Addressing Teen Vaping and Our Outdated Laws

Addressing Teen Vaping and Our Outdated Laws
FILE - In this April 23, 2014 file photo, a man smokes an electronic cigarette in Chicago. San Francisco has approved a bill that bans the sale of flavored nicotine-laced liquid used in electronic cigarettes and flavored tobacco products. The San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the ban on Tuesday, June 20, 2017. Supervisors say that nicotine masked in cotton candy, banana cream, mint and other flavors entices kids into a lifetime of addiction. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh, File)

Last month, the House passed the Preventing Online Sales of E-Cigarettes to Children Act. While this bill has been hailed, rightly, as a good step to addressing the teen vaping epidemic, what can often be overlooked is how this legislation will also address an outdated law that hasn’t kept up with modern times.

We have all read about the rise in teen vaping that has occurred over the past few years, and people across the country are looking for solutions to help reduce teens access to e-cigarettes. The Preventing Online Sales of E-Cigarettes to Children Act, which would require any delivery of e-cigarette products to include an ID check before the products are handed over, is a simple solution that will definitely make a dent in teens access to e-cigarettes.

But, aside from the public health good this bill will do if passed, it also points out a glaring issue that you can find all over our legal system, and that is that our laws often cannot keep up with ever changing technology.

In this instance, the laws surrounding the delivery of tobacco products were last updated in the Prevent All Cigarette Trafficking Act of 2009 or PACT Act.

The PACT Act requires that all delivery services must get proof from the person who accepts delivery of the shipment, in the form of a valid government-issued identification bearing a photograph of the individual, to ensure that the person is at least the minimum age required for the legal sale or purchase of tobacco products, as determined by the applicable law at the place of delivery. All common carries must follow this law when delivering tobacco products.

Unfortunately, despite e-cigarettes being on the market in 2009, they were nowhere near as commonplace as they are now, and therefore there was no mention of them in the PACT Act. This has resulted in e-cigarettes and other vaping products slipping through the cracks in our legal system.

And the lack of a federal standard age verification requirements when ordering these products online has undoubtedly exacerbated the teen vaping epidemic. The latest research on how teens buy e-cigarettes indicated that nearly a third of teens who bought their own products got them from an online store, much more than any other type of retail location.

Gratefully, the solution to addressing this oversight is already in motion, with the Preventing Online Sales of E-Cigarettes to Children Act. This bill will treat e-cigarettes the same way that traditional tobacco products are treated by requiring an ID check at the point of delivery. Without which, there is no way of knowing if the person accepting the package is of legal age to use the products. For the legal adults who currently purchase cigarettes online, at places like pro-smokes.com, the process for ordering their products will remain the same.

To get this bill over the finish line, and give a much needed legislative victory for concerned parents across the country, we need Senators to step up and support the Senate passage of the Preventing Online Sales of E-Cigarettes to Children Act. We are counting on lawmakers, from those who rail against outdated and nonsensical laws on the books, like Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), to his home state colleague Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who has already expressed concern regarding the teen vaping epidemic. Without them, we will miss an easy opportunity to impart real positive change for the next generation and beyond.

Katlyn Batts is the Chairwoman of the Wingate University College Republicans and an employee of the Jesse Helms Center. 

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