We all have seen the disturbing trend of minors and young adults across the country being negatively impacted by lung disease because of vaping. This coincides with what some are calling the teen vaping epidemic, as the use of e-cigarettes rose 78% from the previous year in the annually released National Youth Tobacco Survey. Despite other types of tobacco use remaining constant, vaping has increased exponentially among youth and shows no sign of slowing down. Therefore, we are counting on our legislators to take action to address this national public health emergency.
Thankfully, we have a local Congresswoman in a fantastic position to support meaningful change that will help keep e-cigarettes and other vapor products out of the hands of teens. Congresswoman Karen Bass, who represents parts of Los Angeles and serves as Chairwoman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security, will have the opportunity to hear a recent bill that was referred to her subcommittee that would address a critical loophole that currently contributes to the teen vaping epidemic.
The Preventing Online Sales of E-Cigarettes to Children Act, or H.R. 3942, was referred to Chairwoman Bass’ Subcommittee in August. This bipartisan bill was introduced by Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut and Congressman Kelly Armstrong of North Dakota, and would require an in-person age verification upon delivery of e-cigarette and vapor products purchased online.
While this seems like a small fix, it could have an outsized impact on reversing the recent teen vaping epidemic. That’s because when looking at the latest data on how teens acquire their e-cigarettes, nearly a third said they bought them online. These online sales to teens are the largest portion of retail sales by far, a clear indication that we must take action to fix this problem.
As it stands, when someone goes to purchase e-cigarettes online, there may be an initial age check before the customer can place the order. This is typically in the form of asking for a birth date, social security number, or a scan of a picture ID.
After the initial verification of the age of purchasers, online retailers are done with ensuring these products don’t get into the hands of minors. Meaning, these products can be delivered to anyone, with no proof that the person receiving the package is of legal age to use the products.
This loophole is in part because our laws have not kept pace with rapidly developing technology. The current laws covering traditional cigarettes and other tobacco products require a physical ID check before handing over these products, which was established in the Prevent All Cigarette Trafficking Act of 2009. Unfortunately, this legislation was passed long before e-cigarettes and other vape products became commonplace, and no action has been taken since to address this critical oversight.
Congresswoman Bass has been a strong advocate for the health and wellness of our community, and I am hopeful she will use her position of power in the House to promote and pass the Preventing Online Sales of E-Cigarettes to Children Act. This bill is not only bipartisan, but is also supported by a wide range of organizations like the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, National Alliance for Hispanic Health, and the American Lung Association. It’s time for Congresswoman Bass to work with her California colleagues like Speaker Nancy Pelosi, along with Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, and add their names to the growing list of champions for this bill, because the health of an entire generation is depending on it.