The Real Reason California Wants to Ban Online Tobacco and E-Cig Sales

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In California, the debate is heating up over whether electronic cigarettes should be available for purchase online. Assemblyman Roger Dickinson is heading up the campaign to ban online e-cig sales, claiming that it’s in the best interest of kids to prevent them from accessing vaping products through the computer. He is trying to push through a new bill that would make it illegal for state vapers to buy their e-cigs on the Internet, but does his motive even make sense?

Dickinson told reporters that online sales were dangerous for young people. “Internet sales of tobacco products, we know, pose a serious threat to the health and safety of children because there’s literally no verification of age when products of tobacco are purchased through the Internet,” he said.

While his intentions seem noble at first glance, it’s also important to realize that the state would glean $24 million in additional tax revenue by restricting tobacco sales to brick and mortar establishments. That could muddy the waters. Then there is the problem with lumping e-cigarettes in with tobacco products because electronic cigarettes are actually tobacco-free. Why would they need the same restrictions?

Furthermore, it’s hard to know whether online sales really pose a threat to children. In reality, how many kids are buying e-cigarettes online? To make an online purchase, the buyer would need to pay with a credit card. In order to legally obtain a credit card in the United States, you must be 18 years old, which incidentally is also the legal age to buy tobacco products. While some minors could have access to a parent’s credit card or even have their own card with a co-signed account, the parents would have access to purchase records and be able to easily see that their kids are buying e-cigs online. It seems that the problem with online sales is more about parenting than about legislation.

The debate over online tobacco sales is not a new issue. In fact, in 2010 the Prevent All Cigarette Trafficking Act made it difficult to buy cigarettes online or through the mail. Age verification was required during the purchase and again on delivery. Still, there are some people that prefer to shop online and tobacco products are no exception.

However, basing the new bill purely on preventing sales to minors seems like a stretch. A 2002 study found that only 1.4% of teenage smokers bought their last pack of cigarettes on the Internet. With the percentage of vapers being much smaller than the percentage of smokers, it looks like only a tiny fragment of teens are buying their e-cigs online.

Assemblyman Dickenson might claim that this new bill is all about protecting today’s young people from the dangers of tobacco use, but the reality is that the bill is more likely about increasing tax revenue. People buy products online because it gives them a loop hole to escape some of the extremely high taxes that drive up prices on cigarettes and e-cigs. By banning online sales, California has a lot to gain in the way of revenue.

Of course, we could never expect a politician to actually admit to the real motive, right? After all, that’s just not how politics works in the United States.

What do you think… is this new online ban more about increasing tax revenue or is it really out of concern for today’s youth?

Jimmy, lover, blogger, vaper and ex-smoker. I’ve been blogging about and supporting Vaping since 2009. They changed my life and I think history will show them as one of the most significant public health invention of the 21st century.

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2 Responses

  1. Michael Barger ( @MichaelBarger1 ) says:

    I have just read the text of Roger Dickinson’s bill. If enacted it will assure continuing deaths from lung disease and strikes most viciously against the poor, the disabled, the elderly, and those living outside of major urban areas in California.

    E-c9gs are vaping are far and away the most effective and pleasurable way to quit smoking tobacco, and some have said the have the ability to reduce smoking cigarettes to near zero within the next ten years.

    The bill forces people who are now being e-liquid; cartomizers and other containers for e-liquid, and batteries from a brick and mortar store.

    Ex-smokers who have quit tobacco and now buy all their supplies for vaping online will longer be able to do so.,

    Outside San Francisco, Los Angeles, and a few other urban areas there are few if any stores to buy from. If you live in an isolated area of the state your only option will be to return to smoking cigarettes to meet your need for nicotine because you may have to travel hundreds of miles to a vape store since you be forbidden from continuing to buy online on line.

    In urban areas cigarettes are ubiquitous and available at gas stations, convenience stores, liquor stores, and smoke shops. There are relatively few stores specializing in vaping equipment.

    Cigarettes are a unitary product, but vaping devices are modular consisting of four elements: e-liquid, a tank to hold the liquid, an atomizer, and a case for a battery.

    There are over three hundred flavors of e-liquid available on the internet as well as dozens if not hundreds of variety of liquid-holding tanks and cases for holding batteries which can be assembled thousands of permutations in accordance with the needs, tastes, and financial means of consumers.

    AB 1500 restricts choice to only local stores in your area that you are physically capable of getting to. Restricted choice means higher prices for consumers. It will no longer be possible to buy the least expensive vaping components available.

    Thus AB 1500 falls most heavily on the poor who are trying to quite smoking by switching to vaping and e-cigarettes.

    If you are a poor 67-year-old woman with chronic obstructive lung disease (COPD) who is virtually home-bound and has been saved from smoking by buying e-cigarettes and vaping equipment online you will be forced to take an exhausting journey on public transportation to a vape shop that will offer you a highly restricted selection of e-liquids and equipment at prices 10-100+% more expensive than the supplies you have been ordering on line.

    Many former smokers will be forced to return to buying cigarettes because the are less expensive and more available a short bus ride away to the nearest gas station. Ultimately many of these will get lung disease and so drive up the costs of health care in the state.

    The bill will cause actual harm to ex-smokers who are vaping in the name of preventing potential harm to teenagers.

  2. Michael Barger ( @MichaelBarger1 ) says:

    Here is a clue to why Roger Dickinson is introducing this legislation: He was on the Board and President of the Sacramento Lung Association.

    See the article on him in Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roger_Dickinson

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