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The Green Sheet Online Edition

June 28, 2021 • Issue 21:06:02

The PACT Act will severely impact the vape industry

By David Haber
Global Legal Law Firm

The Prevent All Cigarette Trafficking (PACT) Act was recently amended to apply to e-cigarettes and all vaping products. Among other things, the PACT Act prohibits the U.S. Postal Service from delivering cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products directly to consumers.

Although PACT appears to target tobacco products, the targets are much broader. The 2020 amendment modifies the original definition of "cigarette" to include Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS). ENDS is defined very broadly to include all vaping products, liquids, components and accessories, whether they contain nicotine or not.

Sweeping definition

An ENDS product is defined as "any electronic device that, through an aerosolized solution, delivers nicotine, flavor, or any other substance to the user inhaling from the device." This includes any component, liquid, part or accessory of a device, not just nicotine-related products.

This broad definition of ENDS appears to include CBD, THC, and hemp vape pens. It also appears to include anything that can be used to vape any liquid or oil-based substance, and the substances themselves.

In addition to the USPS ban on smokeless products, FedEx and UPS recently announced that they would also stop deliveries of vapor products. As the president of American Vaping Association noted, the bill imposes increased shipping costs and huge paperwork burdens on small retailers and backs it up with threats of imprisonment for even innocent mistakes.

Draconian enforcement

In addition to the non-mailing provisions, the PACT Act requires anyone who sells these products to register with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). Unlike the relatively relaxed enforcement by the FDA, the ATF is an actual police agency that takes its enforcement mandate seriously.

The PACT Act also requires sellers to file a monthly report with the state tobacco tax administrator and other local entities that tax cigarette sales. The Act also mandates that the ATF maintain a list of non-compliant persons who fail to comply with the Act. Placement on the list bars common carriers and other persons from delivering products sold by the listed company. The ATF distributes the list to common carriers, USPS, credit card companies and others to help enforce the list.

Tough requirements

While the law's goal was originally to police tax compliance, the inclusion of vaping products is supposedly intended primarily to prevent online sales to minors. Online retailers will be required to:

  • Verify the age of customers using a commercially available database;
  • Use private shipping services that collect an adult signature at the point of delivery;
  • Register with the ATF and U.S. attorney general;
  • Register with state and local tax administrators in all states and localities where business is done;
  • Collect and pay all applicable local and state taxes, and affix any required tax stamps to the products sold;
  • Each month, send a list of all transactions to each state's tax administrator that includes the names and addresses of each consumer sold to, the quantities and type of each product sold, and the name, address, and phone number of the person delivering the shipment to the recipient.

The PACT Act also imposes additional labeling, delivery and record-keeping rules. The federal law backs up its stringent standards with severe criminal penalties that can include huge fines and even federal prison sentences. The vaping industry expects that the ATF will likely make examples of some non-compliant retailers.

In addition to the ATF, each state has its own set of rules for companies doing business in the state. Retailers can be cited by states for not following their individual requirements for tax payments and filing, and they may have to purchase tobacco and other licenses or hire a registered agent in the state. The PACT Act reporting requirements are expected to squeeze money from out-of-state vendors that mandate sales tax collection.

Evidently a partnership between a private company and a national residential shipping carrier known as X has begun building a vaping product delivery network that will serve residential customers in some areas. Shipping costs are expected to be slightly higher, but not that far from the cost of USPS delivery with adult signature collection. The delivery coverage area is expected to include sections of Florida, Texas, California, Nevada and Arizona.

Three types of requirements

In summary, sellers of ENDS need to be aware of three main parts of the PACT Act: registration requirements, reporting requirements and shipping restrictions.

  1. Registration requirements: As noted above, any person or entity that sells, transfers, or ships for profit in interstate commerce must register with the ATF. This applies to delivery sellers (selling directly to consumers), distributors and manufacturers shipping in interstate commerce. However, this only applies when the destination-state taxes ENDS, which means companies will need to look closely at whether that state taxes ENDS, as well as whether that ENDS-tax exempts THC, hemp or CBD devices.
  2. Reporting requirements: Any entity or person who sells, transfers or ships for profit ENDS in interstate commerce must report every shipment made during the previous month to their respective state tobacco tax administrator. Sellers must collect and retain for four years the city/town and ZIP code data of customers they ship to. The reporting requirements only apply when the destination-state taxes ENDS.
  3. Shipping restrictions: The USPS is prohibited from shipping all vaping-related products through the mail to residential addresses. The USPS was expected to have implemented the retail mail ban no later than April 26, 2021. In addition, UPS, FedEx, and DHL have also implemented or plan to implement similar policies prohibiting the shipment of ENDS and may not include a business-to-business exception. Vape product sellers need to be aware that violations of the PACT Act carry civil and criminal penalties.

The new legal changes make it very important that cannabis, hemp and CBD companies carefully review whether the PACT Act amendments apply to their business and then determine their level of compliance, so they are not targeted by the ATF or local tax authorities. end of article

As an associate attorney at Global Legal Law Firm, David Haber provides legal and practical solutions for small to midsize businesses. He is an experienced litigator who has represented clients in all phases of litigation. Practice areas include electronic payments litigation, contract disputes, business disputes and franchise law. He also advises companies on how to increase revenues and minimize risk. To reach him, please email info@attorneygl.com or call 888-846-8901.

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