New Law Bans Sales Of Cigarettes and Most Tobacco Products by Internet, Phone, Mail Order

For Immediate Release: June 30, 2008

Media Contacts:
Vermont Department of Health
Communication Office
802-863-7281

Office of the Attorney General
Christy Mihaly, Assistant Attorney General
802-828-4605

Montpelier - Vermont’s new ban on the sale of Internet and other delivery (non-face-to-face) sales of cigarettes and other tobacco products goes into effect July 1, 2008, Attorney General William H. Sorrell, Health Commissioner Sharon Moffatt and Commissioner of Public Safety Thomas Tremblay announced today.

It will now be illegal, under Vermont’s Act 119, for cigarettes, roll-your-own tobacco, little cigars, or snuff, ordered or purchased by telephone, mail order, or through the Internet, to be shipped to anyone in Vermont other than a licensed wholesale or retail dealer, or distributor.

Attorney General Sorrell said, “This legislation is a win-win-win. It protects kids, supports Vermont retailers, and brings in tax revenue.”

While stores currently check photo IDs to prevent illegal sales of cigarettes and tobacco to minors, many Internet sellers have inadequate or no systems for verifying the age of a buyer.

“Scientific and medical studies show that the younger a person starts smoking, the more likely he or she is to become addicted,” said Health Commissioner Sharon Moffatt, RN, MSN. “Verifying age with a photo ID at the store is key to keeping cigarettes out of the hands of children.”

In addition, most Internet vendors illegally fail to collect and pay State cigarette, tobacco, and sales taxes. Starting July 1, the Vermont cigarette tax will increase to $1.99 per pack. Research shows that higher prices will reduce youth smoking rates. Availability of cheaper cigarettes is associated with higher smoking rates, especially among young people.

When Internet sellers fail to pay cigarette and tobacco taxes, their sales of illegally lower-priced products also cuts into the legitimate business of local retailers. Vermont retailers, in order to sell cigarettes and tobacco products, must get a license and pay taxes to the State. The State estimates that Internet cigarette sales have resulted in hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost tax revenues.

Commissioner Tremblay said the ban on delivery sales will assure that all cigarettes sold in Vermont comply with statutory “reduced ignition propensity” standards. These cigarette fire safety standards went into effect in 2006 in Vermont, and are now in effect in all states bordering Vermont, and in Canada as well. Cigarettes meeting these standards will self-extinguish if left unattended; this reduces the risk of cigarettes igniting upholstered furniture, mattresses, household furnishings and other combustible materials.

“This law, by preventing house fires, has saved Vermont lives. The Internet ban will help us to assure that all cigarettes in Vermont meet the fire safety standards,” said Commissioner Tremblay.

For more information on how to get help quitting smoking, please visit: www.VTQuitnetwork.org, or call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (784-8669).

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