What is the PACT Act?
The PACT Act, signed into law in November of 2009, placed restrictions on how consumers could acquire cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products. PACT stands for "Prevent All Cigarette Trafficking." Furthermore, in December of 2020, lawmakers added an amendment to the PACT Act, the reason so many CBD users have shown a newfound interest in the 2009 law. This amendment, the Preventing Online Sales of E-Cigarettes to Children Act, expands the definition of cigarettes to include vape products like e-cigs, e-hookahs, refillable vaporizers, and more.
In summary, the amended PACT Act states:
- E-commerce retailers can no longer ship tobacco products to consumers through the United States Postal Service (USPS). FedEx and DHL prohibit the shipment of tobacco products as well but say nothing about cannabis products. UPS bans all "vaping products."
- Cigarettes and smokeless tobacco companies must now register with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and the US Attorney General.
- Companies must file a statement with the US Attorney General and the tobacco tax administration for each state a shipment is made or advertised. The report must include information like: name, address, phone number of in-state agent, and more.
- Companies must file an invoice for all shipments made the previous month, given to the state's tobacco tax administrator.
- Packages containing cigarettes or smokeless tobacco products must be labeled, on both bill of lading and outside of package: "CIGARETTES/SMOKELESS TOBACCO: FEDERAL LAW REQUIRES THE PAYMENT OF ALL APPLICABLE EXCISE TAXES, AND COMPLIANCE WITH APPLICABLE LICENSING AND TAX-STAMPING OBLIGATIONS."
- No package can weigh more than 10 pounds.
- No selling or delivering to underaged persons, as determined by the local place of delivery.
- Companies must keep sales records for all cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products for up to four years.
What If You Don't Comply with the PACT Act?
If a supplier of tobacco products does not comply with the rules outlined in the PACT Act and the accompanying Preventing Online Sales of E-Cigarettes to Children Act, they could face a variety of criminal and civil penalties.
To start, non-compliant tobacco sellers will be added to a master list of non-compliance. This is distributed to the attorney general and tax administrator of every state, making licensing difficult to get. USPS also receives a copy at least every four months. For 60 days following when the list is last distributed, no person or entity on the list shall be allowed to deliver, sell, or transfer any tobacco products.
Repeat offenders may find themselves behind bars for up to three years. Civil penalties include fines up to $5000 for the first violation and $10,000 for every subsequent violation (or 2% of gross sales on tobacco products for the previous year).
How Did the PACT Act Come to Be?
The Preventing Online Sales of E-Cigarettes to Children Act materialized in Congress after a pre-COVID vape crisis. Weeks before the first reported case of COVID-19, 54 people had already lost their lives to a rare and mysterious lung disease named EVALI, a result of unregulated vape products filled with harsh, FDA-unapproved substances. And unfortunately, EVALI continues to affect vape users long into the COVID era, despite a seeming lack of media coverage.
For generations, we've seen the long-term effects of tobacco products like cigarettes. The CDC estimates that close to 500,000 people lose their lives to tobacco-related ailments every year. So why did lawmakers suddenly decide to make a change and tackle new-age tobacco products with new regulations?
According to the Truth Initiative, which fights childhood tobacco use, the use of disposable tobacco products in those under 18 years old rose over 1000% between 2019 and 2020. The majority of confiscated products contained flavor, with menthol (mint) being the most popular. Lawmakers banned flavor in closed e-cig cartridges back in January of 2020, a lesser version of a previous bill that would have outlawed ALL flavored cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products. The Truth Initiatives states that over 70% of confiscated products were banned from the market as well. This didn't work too well, with critics saying more is needed to quell a vape "epidemic", as it's sometimes called.
How Has the PACT Act Changed the Vaping Industry?
The Preventing Online Sales of E-Cigarettes to Children Act reduced accessibility within the vape industry, for better or for worse. On one hand, youth have a harder time acquiring vape products (at least on paper). On the other, long-time adult vape users could no longer acquire flavored tobacco products, some they'd used legally for years before now.
However, the law didn't spell out exceptions for products like CBD-infused vapes and other smokeless cannabis products. As a result, cannabis companies have largely had to withdraw their vape stock.
All in all, it seems that the Preventing Online Sales of E-Cigarettes to Children Act restructured how people go about selling cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products like vapes but didn't take the right steps to actually ensure that these products will not end up in the hands of kids.
What do you think about the PACT Act and its 2020 amendment, the Preventing Online Sales of E-Cigarettes to Children Act? Do you support this law? What more do you think it could have done for keeping kids tobacco-free? We'd love to hear from you in the comments!