Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan recently announced that his office settled violations of the state’s delivery sale law with three online electronic nicotine delivery system (ENDS) sellers. Since December 2020 and including these most recent settlements, the state has collected $472,500 from 13 companies for such violations, signaling the state’s growing desire to enforce this law against online ENDS sellers.
Vermont’s delivery sale law bans the online sale and shipment of cigarettes, roll-your-own tobacco, little cigars, snuff, tobacco substitutes, substances containing nicotine or otherwise intended for use with a tobacco substitute, or tobacco paraphernalia. Tobacco substitute and/or substances containing nicotine include ENDS. Notably, however, the delivery sale ban does not apply to premium cigars, cigars weighing more than 4.5 pounds per 1,000.
As illustrated by Attorney General Donovan’s recent announcements, aggressive enforcement of the delivery sale ban could result in substantial penalties for the unwary online retailer. The attorney general is authorized to seek a civil penalty in an amount not to exceed $5,000 for each violation, and each shipment or transport of prohibited products constitutes a separate violation. The civil penalty could be in addition to criminal remedies, such as imprisonment for up to five years, a fine of $5,000, or both. Thus, online tobacco and ENDS retailers should beware of Vermont’s delivery sale ban and similar laws in other jurisdictions.