California Seeks To Ban Online Tobacco Sales

Proposed bill would also include electronic cigarettes

Melissa Vonder Haar, Freelance Writer

Roger Dickinson

Roger Dickinson

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- California may not wait on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to regulate the online sale of electronic cigarettes: Although the FDA's proposed regulations are currently being reviewed by the Office of Management and Budget, assemblyman Roger Dickinson (D) introduced a bill last week that would ban online sales of all tobacco products--including electronic cigarettes--in the state of California.

According to CBS Sacramento, Dickinson cited sub-par age verification requirements and statistics showing that somewhere between 6% and 14% of U.S. tobacco sales occur on the web as reasons behind the proposal.

"We need to do more to protect our children from a tobacco addiction and a lifetime of health-related problems," he said during a press conference. "Because there is no physical presence of the seller with the buyer, it is easy for a young person who is not eligible to buy tobacco products or e-cigarettes to do so."

"There's supposed to be age verification and notice--it's not working," Dickinson continued. "The next logical step is to simply ban sales through the Internet."

The bill would make it illegal for online retailers to ship tobacco products and e-cigarettes to any individual with a California address--though Dickinson said companies could continue to ship to retailers.

"It doesn't interfere with the flow of commerce otherwise," Dickinson said. "I don't think it has an impact on the conduct of business by legitimate companies for legitimate purposes."

As to his decision to include electronic cigarettes, the assemblyman alluded to the untested nature of the products. "Electronic cigarettes are especially of concern because they are currently largely unregulated," Dickinson said. "The idea that an e-cigarette is simply benign is far from proven."

Not surprisingly, anti-smoking advocates such as Kori Titus of Breathe California are applauding the measure. "E-cigarettes are very much an emergency trend," Titus told CBS Sacramento. "They are being marketed very closely to children and teens."

E-cigarette retailers, however, view this as another case of politicians using the well-being of minors to push through unnecessary regulations.

"Yeah, we have strawberry, but don't adults like strawberry margaritas or strawberry pie?" said Barry Smith, owner of the Electric Cigarette Lounge. "We aren't going after kids. It's ludicrous."