New Proposed Bill Seeks to Eliminate Online Tobacco Sales, Cripple Tobacco Industry

motie2motie2 Master
edited April 18 in Tobacco Talk

New Proposed Bill Seeks to Eliminate Online Tobacco Sales, Cripple Tobacco Industry

edited for length

Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) and Rep. Donna Shalala (D-FL) have introduced a new comprehensive piece of legislation aimed at address the sharp uptick in tobacco and e-cigarette use among America’s youth.

“The Reversing the Youth Tobacco Epidemic Act of 2019” is a broad legislative bill that serves as a conglomerate of many of the legislation trends in recent years all combined into one bill that if passed could drastically impact many tobacco businesses in a negative manner. Each part of the bill looks at reducing the number of youth using and having access to tobacco products in the United States. As a result, it also severely limits adult smoker’s access to tobacco products and limits how businesses–both retail and manufacturers–can sell and market their products.

Here are some of the provisions the Reversing the Youth Tobacco Epidemic Act of 2019 looks to impose:

The FDA must finalize a rule requiring graphic health warnings for cigarette packages within 12 months
Extends FDA regulations on the sale, distribution, and use of cigarettes and smokeless tobacco to all deemed tobacco products, including cigarettes
Raises the minimum age for purchasing tobacco products to 21 years and makes it unlawful for any retailer to sell a tobacco product to any person younger than 21 years of age
Directs FDA to prohibit non-face-to-face sales of all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes and e-cigarette accessories
Prohibits all characterizing flavors of tobacco products, including menthol
Provides FDA with the authority to collect user fees from all classes of tobacco, including e-cigarettes
Instructs the FDA to issue a final rule on the regulation of products containing synthetic nicotine of nicotine that is not made or derived from tobacco
Makes it unlawful to market, advertise, or promote any e-cigarette products to individuals under the age of 21
Requires the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to issue an annual report to Congress on the domestic sales, advertising, and promotional activity of cigarette, cigar, smokeless tobacco, and e-cigarette


This is..... the first time a bill this broad that touches on so many aspects of the tobacco industry–from the traditional combustible tobacco products like cigarettes to the modern and popular e-cigarettes. It also brings many of these issues center stage on the federal level, showing that members of Congress are taking on the tobacco and vape industries with more aggressive measures with many Senators and Representatives growing impatient with the FDA’s actions to address what has been coined by the FDA and outgoing FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb as an “epidemic.”

The bill pushes for graphic health warnings on cigarettes, which has been in discussion for some time. Last year, the courts also pushed the FDA to finalize its implementation of these graphic warnings. This bill puts a timetable on that, giving the FDA 12 months to finalize its graphic warning requirements for cigarettes after this bill is passed. The bill quotes studies that show that graphic warnings are an effective way to inform consumers about the health risks of smoking and a way to prevent youth and nonsmokers from beginning to smoke.

The bill also addresses advertising of tobacco products, attempting to put limits on how companies promote themselves and wanting all deemed products–cigarettes, cigars, smokeless and e-cigarettes alike–to have fewer options to promote themselves and their products. This includes and extends to any non-tobacco merchandise such as swag and promotional materials that bear the tobacco product brand name or logo; sponsorship of athletic, music, or other concert events; offering free gifts in return for purchasing tobacco products; and prohibiting advertising or labeling of tobacco products in nontraditional mediums without first notifying the FDA. This means anyone that sells a tobacco product or deemed product will be severely limited in how they promote themselves, even in terms of giveaway or swag items, making it it harder to build brand awareness beyond a customer actually buying or using a tobacco product. The FTC would be able to seek civil penalties for violations of statute any time e-cigarette products were marketed to individuals under the age of 21 without disclosing that the communication is an advertisement. While it does not address promotions on social media specifically, the vagueness of the bill in this area could easily be extended to all forms of advertising and promotion, including social media.

The bill also seeks to raise the legal age to purchase tobacco or deemed products to 21 on a federal level. Congressman Robert Aderholt recently introduced the Stopping Consumption of Tobacco by Teens (SCOTT Act), which also looks to raise the legal purchasing age for tobacco products to 21 [read more here]. If passed, the The Reversing the Youth Tobacco Epidemic Act of 2019 would raise the minimum age for purchasing tobacco products to 21 and would make it unlawful for any retailer to sell a tobacco product to any person younger than 21 years of age. I would not preempt the authority of a state or locality to increase age restrictions for the purchase of tobacco products beyond age 21. It would go into effect 180 after the bill was enacted.

The bill would also prohibit remote retail sales, meaning online sales of deemed products would not be allowed. The bill says this is necessary in order to prevent youth access to tobacco products and the inability to ensure the same level of face-to-face identification and age verification with remote sales.

Flavored tobacco products–including menthol–would be prohibited. The only way a manufacturer would be permitted to use a flavor in its tobacco product would be if the FDA determined that a flavor would be appropriate for the “protection of public health.” The chances of that happening are slim to none.

The bill also gives the FDA the authority to not only collect user fees from all classes of tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, but it also increases the total amount of fees that can be collected by $100 million. The bill notes that this proposal was included in President Trump’s fiscal year (FY) 2020 budget.


  • RebelheathenRebelheathen Apprentice
    edited April 18
    Wow. I can see how they are targeting specific parts of the tobacco industry as well as general part. Thanks for breaking that down. I’ve noticed on most tins you will see a nicotine warning not a cancer warning. My thought though is that if I can’t by tinned tobacco online will my local B&M be able to order it for me. That will also probably increase the price of timned tobacco because of the middleman fee. 
  • @Rebelheathen
    Aye, that's how it works...middleman increases price, consumers get the shaft, consumers consume less, tobacco profits drop, tobacco farmers quit farming tobacco, no more tobacco.  Just what they want without actually making it 100% illegal, piece by piece until it's gone.  Just like firearms and other things they end-run around to get the same final result.
  • I guess I better start buying a crap ton of my favorite tobaccos and storing them....
  • RebelheathenRebelheathen Apprentice
    Looks like I need to get my cellaring skills up. 
  • RandyB1966RandyB1966 Enthusiast
    The only up side to this bill it covers alot of different things which means it does a horrible job of doing what it was designed to do, take away our right to smoke and our choice of what we smoke.  With it being big the pro smokers will fill it with crap to make them happy so it will kill it in the long run.  That my 2 cents worth.
  • Ron191Ron191 Master
    Government is never more dangerous than when it is protecting us from ourselves. 
  • mfresamfresa Master
    You can buy tobacco seeds online.
  • motie2motie2 Master
    @mfresa -- for now, and what qualifies us to grow quality leaf?
  • KenofAhwlbyKenofAhwlby Enthusiast
    edited April 19
    @ghostsofpompeii,    Don’t be shy,,,Why don’t you tell us how you really feel. B)
  • RandyB1966RandyB1966 Enthusiast
    This is a pipe dream (pun intended) but if on line sales get more controled may be B&M shops will come back into fashion.  It could happen    right B) :| ;)
  • mfresamfresa Master
    @motie2, I don't understand the question.
  • motie2motie2 Master
    Thus far, I can buy seed, but there's a world of factors -- climate, soil, insect vectors, yada, yada -- before I'd have leaf pleasant to smoke. I'm not so hooked that if tobacco goes away I'd be moved to take up farming. :p
  • I can't even grow a good tomato. Bought one of those upside down tomato growing contraptions as seen on TV and just as my crop of cherry tomatoes was about to turn red we had a torrential windstorm. My tomato plant was flailing about in that frigging upside down basket of dirt as it whirled round like an out of control carousel. About midway through the storm I watched in horror as my plant snapped in half, fell to the earth, and lay on the wet ground twitching like a wounded animal. God only knows what would horrors I might expect when trying to grow my own tobacco. The end result would probably be more like "The Day Of The Triffids".   
  • Really considering stocking up now...
  • PappyJoePappyJoe Master
    edited April 20
    IF ( yes, a big IF) the ban on on-line sales it could have an unforeseen by the politicians side effect of creating brick and mortar stores. Let's face it, it wasn't just higher excise taxes and local regulations that drove shops to close, it was also the on-line retailers selling for cheaper than an B&M could buy wholesale.

    But, I'm just trying to be optimistic.

  • Either way, we are going to be paying (probably significantly) more for our tobacco and pipes.  It will also dwindle our myriad of selections that are available at online retailers.  Brick and Mortars will not and can not stock anywhere near the vast selections in their inventories.
  • I can't see anyone opening new tobacco shops as a result of on-line sales being suspended ... there are not enough pipe smokers around to sustain a tobacco shop ... which is why places like The Tinder Box closed shop at my mall. The only hope is that current Smoke Shops that normally cater to cigarette and one pound bags of cheap tobacco like "Smoker's Pride", "Jester", "Virginia Gold", "4 Aces", "Largo", and "Gambler" add some tins of premium blends to their selection as well. 
  • CACooperCACooper Enthusiast
    The late, great Barry Levin once said, way back in the early ‘90’s, “Tobacco will never be cheaper or more available than it is right now”. Truly prophetic words. I took his advice those many years ago, and now have an extensive cellar, not only tins but several pounds of bulk. Probably enough to last several decades, and I’m still adding to it. I strongly suggest if you haven’t already done so, start now. Buy and cellar as much as you can possibly afford. If anything else, it’s money in the bank.
  • mfresamfresa Master
    And companies like STG have nothing to say about this?
  • My opinion on continued hoarding runs hot and cold. One day I think I've got enough to last a lifetime ... then I read an article like this and put in another big order for tobacco. So my advice is ... "never listen to my advice". I apparently have more faces than Sybil when it come to this subject. 
  • I look at it this way. I'm probably cellaring too much tobacco, but I'd rather outlive my hoard than run out. Better safe than sorry. I'm less concerned about not being able to find pipe tobacco in the future as I am about being able to afford it in my golden years. 
  • KA9FFJKA9FFJ Master
    edited April 23
    I have enough in my cellar to last, rough "guesstimate", about 10 to 12 years. I still buy blends (avg. 3 to 5 oz. per purchase), that peak my interest from time to time, which only adds to my cellar. 
    I will be 71 in 3 weeks, so doing the math you can see why I fall in that category of, sit back and enjoy what I have.
    But for those younger bucks out there, it's not a bad idea to accumulate your "money in the bank" so that, like me, you're pretty well set into your mid 80s... Just thinkin' IMHO... 😊
    By the way, I totally agree with @Kmhartle... Well said brother...
  • motie2motie2 Master

    McConnell to Introduce Tobacco 21 Legislation in May 2019

    April 20, 2019

    It’s news that has the entire tobacco industry talking–yet another bill has been introduced that aims to raise the minimum age for people purchasing tobacco products from 18 to 21. What makes this one any different? This time, it’s Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) whose introducing and advocating for the bill.

    McConnell says he was urged to act because of what he calls an “unprecedented spike” in the number of teenagers who were vaping and smoking e-cigarettes. McConnell has plans to introduce this bill in May 2019. This joins a fray of similar legislative bills introduced in the past few weeks, including the Reversing the Youth Tobacco Epidemic Act of 2019 introduced by Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) and Rep. Donna Shalala (D-FL) [read more here] and the Stopping Consumption of Tobacco by Teens (SCOTT Act) introduced by Congressman Robert Aderholt [read more here]. On the state level, 12 states have already enacted their own form of Tobacco 21.

    McConnell has not revealed the details of his bill but has said it will continue to make retailers responsible for age verification of tobacco products. It would also exempt members of the military, similar to Texas’ Senate-passed Tobacco 21 bill [read more here]. With McConnell now taking on the issue, Tobacco 21 now has not only bi-partisan support in some form but it also has support in both the House of Representatives and in the Senate, making it a piece of legislation both political parties would appear to support and agree on. Some of the industry’s big manufacturers, including Altria and JUUL, also support Tobacco 21.

    “For some time, I’ve been hearing from the parents who are seeing an unprecedented spike in vaping among their teenage children. In addition, we all know people who started smoking at a young age and who struggled to quit as adults. Unfortunately, it’s reaching epidemic levels around the country. We have an epidemic of nicotine consumption either through cigarettes or through vaping in high schools and even middle schools, not only in our state but around the country,” McConnell said when speaking about his Tobacco 21 push.

    “By raising the minimum age to 21, no high school student will be able to purchase tobacco products legally, adding another hurdle to help reduce social access,” Altria responded in a press release on Tobacco 2 legislation measures.

    Some anti-tobacco groups worry that tobacco companies have too much influence over the legislative process and are adding in state provisions to limit the regulation of tobacco products. This fear stems from provisions found in the legislation introduced by Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-AL), that would allow some tobacco products–like heat-not-burn products iQOS, to be classified as a vapor product. This would allow iQOS to avoid certain regulations imposed on cigarette products. Some anti-tobacco groups are also not buying into tobacco companies supporting Tobacco 21 efforts, fearing the often-times unpublicized provisions make the overall bill weak in addressing the big issue–keeping tobacco products out of the hands of minors–while allowing tobacco companies and retailers who are selling products they shouldn’t operate with fewer consequences.

    McConnell’s state, Kentucky, is a leading producer of tobacco in the U.S. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Kentucky has one of the highest cancer mortality rates in the U.S. and along with West Virginia, Kentucky has the highest rate of death linked to smoking. McConnell has also reportedly received more than $160,000 in contributions from Altria according to records kept by the Center for Responsive Politics [view here], who is a major cigarette manufacturer but also is the parent company of premium cigar producer Nat Sherman International and minority stakeholder in JUUL. Altria supports raising the minimum purchasing age for tobacco products to 21 while also investing money, research and time in areas outside of tobacco in the past year, including cannabis with its investment in Cronos Group [read more here] and reduced harm products [read more here].

    While McConnell’s bill was sparked by teens’ use of vapor and e-cigarette products, it will cover all tobacco products. McConnell’s Tobacco 21 legislation will introduced in May 2019. For all the latest legislation and FDA news impacting the tobacco industry, click here.

  • I wonder if any of these politicians NEVER smoke a cigar, pipe, cigarette, etc. How strange would it be if a family member gifts them a cigar in celebration? Haha...sigh....
  • wbradkwbradk Apprentice
    I would certainly encourage everyone to write to their congressman and Senators to urge them to oppose this awful bill.  Sometimes getting such mail will help bring such a bill--which otherwise probably will not get much attention on the Hill--to the member's notice.  I occasionally saw this work when I was a staffer on Capitol Hill.  You can easily find their email/snail mail address online.  A short, simple note would do.  A real paper letter is better than an email.
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