For some time, Vermont law has prohibited anyone, other than licensed dealers, distributors, and retailers from purchasing cigarettes, roll-your-own tobacco, little cigars, and snuff through the mail or other electronic networks, such as the Internet or by telephone.  Back in February, the Vermont legislature considered House Bill 747, which, among other things, proposed to include electronic cigarettes in the state’s Internet sales ban.  On May 5, 2012, House Bill 747 passed; however, the bill’s ban on Internet sales of electronic cigarettes did not survive committee.

House Bill 747 proposed to amend 7 Vt. Stat. § 1010(b) to include the purchase or shipment of “tobacco substitutes” within the state’s ban on direct Internet sales of tobacco products to consumers. The legislation included electronic cigarettes within its definition of “tobacco substitute,” along with other electronic or battery-powered devices that contain or deliver nicotine into the body through a vapor (and have not been approved by the FDA for tobacco cessation or other medical purposes).  As a result, only licensed dealers, distributors, and retailers would have been able to purchase or receive shipments of electronic cigarettes via the Internet, and not consumers.  Ultimately, however, the proposed Internet sales ban for electronic cigarettes failed to make it through the House’s Committee on Human Services, which removed the ban from the proposed legislation in March 2012.

While the ban on Internet sales of electronic cigarettes ultimately did not make it into the final, passed version of H.B. 747, other restrictions on electronic cigarettes and other types of tobacco substitutes did.  Specifically, Vermont now prohibits the sale of electronic cigarettes and other tobacco substitutes to persons under 18 years of age.  In addition, retailers (and other entities holding a Vermont tobacco license) must display or store electronic cigarettes and other tobacco substitutes in areas only where the retailers’ personnel can have direct access to the products.

Vermont is the latest state to enact legislation impacting electronic cigarettes.  For example, Idaho recently passed legislation prohibiting the sale of electronic cigarettes to individuals under 18.  Stay tuned for further developments impacting electronic cigarettes.

For questions and/or comments, please contact Bryan Haynes, Troutman Sanders Tobacco practice partner, at 804.697.1420 or by email.