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State lawmaker seeks ban on most tobacco, e-cigarette online sales

Laws and LegislationRoger DickinsonTobacco ProductsE-Commerce IndustryCrime, Law and JusticeBoxing

SACRAMENTO — In an effort to clamp down on youth smoking, Assemblyman Roger Dickinson (D-Sacramento) announced Monday that he was introducing a bill that would block the sale of cigarettes, tobacco products and electronic cigarettes to individuals via the Internet.

"Internet sales of tobacco products, we know, pose a serious threat to the health and safety of children because there’s literally no verification of age when products of tobacco are purchased through the Internet," Dickinson said at a news conference.

Online tobacco retailers are supposed to verify the purchaser's age, but the majority of sites only require the buyer to say they are 18 or older — an ineffective deterrent, Dickinson said.

"Regrettably, the steps we have taken to this point to legally try to prevent sales of tobacco products to minors simply haven’t been sufficient," Dickinson said. "It seems, given that state of affairs, that the next logical step to truly make a difference here is simply to ban the sales through the Internet." 

"It’s a very simple rule to follow and I think that will make our efforts more effective," he added.

The bill, AB 1500, does not prohibit online retailers to ship to other retailers. By requiring customers to purchase tobacco products at brick-and-mortar locations, Dickinson says, the state would generate $24 million in sales tax revenue.

Supporters say in-store transactions, where customers have to show age verification, make it harder for minors to buy tobacco products.

"We’ve done a really great job in California of trying to keep tobacco out of children’s hands," said Kori Titus, CEO of Breathe California of Sacramento-Emigrant Trails, a clean air advocacy group. "Unfortunately, the Internet is one place where that is not the case and it’s incredibly easy for children to acquire tobacco." 

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melanie.mason@latimes.com

@melmason

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