Buried in the enormous spending/COVID-19 relief package that Congress approved this week is a bill that imposes new restrictions on the distribution of all vaping equipment, parts, and supplies, including a ban on mailing them. The provision illustrates not only how utterly irrelevant legislation can be slipped into unread, must-pass bills but also how Congress redefines reality through legal fictions and uses save-the-children rhetoric to justify restricting adults’ choices.
Title VI of the 2021 Consolidated Appropriations Act, which appears on page 5,136 of the 5,593-page bill, is called the Preventing Online Sales of E-Cigarettes to Children Act. The bill was introduced last April by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D–Calif.), joined by seven original cosponsors: six Democrats plus Sen. John Cornyn (R–Texas). It includes two changes aimed at complicating and obstructing online sales of vapes and e-liquid.
Feinstein’s bill amends the Jenkins Act of 1949, which requires that vendors who sell cigarettes to customers in other states register with the tax administrators in those states and notify them of all such sales so they can collect the taxes that the buyers are officially obligated to pay. In 2002, the General Accounting Office (now the Government Accountability Office) found that online cigarette sellers routinely flouted the Jenkins Act and that the federal government had done virtually nothing to enforce it. Nine years later, Congress amended the law, beefing up its reporting requirements and extending it to cover roll-your-own tobacco.