Much has been written about the recently passed flavor ban on tobacco products, which was signed into law by Governor Newsom. California now joins a short list of progressive states, like Massachusetts and New York, which have taken aggressive action to ban flavored tobacco products from being sold. While this is certainly progress in reducing the harm caused by smoking, there is a loophole in the California flavor ban that risks seriously undermining the effectiveness of the legislation.  

The legislation that Governor Newsom signed into law bans all flavored tobacco products, and was billed, in part, as a way to address the youth vaping epidemic.  

Organizations that came out in support of the bill’s passage also cited teen vaping in their praise. The American Heart Association tweeted out: THANK YOU to @GavinNewsom for signing #SB793 into law. Ending the sale tobacco products designed to hook kids helps ensure we don’t lose a new generation to nicotine addiction. 

The only problem is – this bill still allows flavored vaping products to be sold and purchased online and delivered to homes across the state. Not only is this an obvious loophole, it’s likely more problematic than many would assume. That’s because research shows that minors are more likely to purchase vaping products online than any other retail sources, with nearly a third of teens who reported buying their own e-cigarettes saying they bought them online.

In addition, a study conducted in 2015 proved just how easy it is for teens to purchase e-cigarettes online. In North Carolina, minors took part in an experiment where they attempted to buy e-cigarettes from nearly 100 different online vendors. The minors successfully received the e-cigarette delivery 76.5% of the time. And 95% of these deliveries were left at the door – with no attempt to verify the customers’ ages.

Thankfully, Congress has already taken steps to address the online sales of e-cigarettes by passing the Preventing Online Sales of E-Cigarettes to Children Act. This bill would require an in-person ID check for online orders at the point of delivery to prevent the sale of e-cigarette to minors. 

This bill passed the House late last year, and earlier this summer, a slightly altered version passed the Senate as well. Both bills garnered overwhelmingly bipartisan support, with the Senate version being introduced by our home state senator Dianne Feinstein alongside Texas Republican John Cornyn. Unfortunately, since the text of the two bills were not exactly the same, it is now incumbent upon the House to pass the Senate’s version of this legislation in order for President Trump to sign the bill into law. 

And given that California is officially out of legislative session and cannot update the law to close this loophole, it is essential that our federal elected officials rise to the occasion. 

That is why we need Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to work together to bring this critical bill to the House floor. While we know there are many issues facing Congress, with a looming government shutdown and debate over another round of coronavirus relief, we cannot put the health and safety of the next generation on the back burner.