On July 12, more than four hundred vape companies urged FedEx to reverse a policy that prohibits the company from shipping and receiving vaping products. Together, these small businesses signed a letter organized by the American Vaping Association (AVA) that insists the mail carrier’s delivery ban will prevent consumers from obtaining the vapes and e-cigarettes they’ve used to stop smoking. FedEx’s current rules do not allow the shipment of vaping products from business to business or directly to vapers, many of whom might have difficulty obtaining them if they live in rural areas.
The letter is something of last-ditch effort, a desperate ask. Tobacco harm reduction advocates, vapers and manufacturers have been waiting tensely since December 2020, when then-President Donald Trump signed a COVID-19 relief bill that updated the Prevent All Cigarette Trafficking (PACT) Act.
That decision amended 2010 legislation—revised to become the Preventing Online Sales of E-Cigarettes to Children Act, but still referred to as the PACT Act—to include all e-cigarette and vaping products in what has, in the vaping community, become known colloquially as the “vape mail ban.”
The situation around the United States Postal Service (USPS) is convoluted and incessantly confusing. In short, the agency has yet to implement the mail ban, even though the PACT Act has been signed. But the moment it does, vaping shipments—either directly to consumers or from business to business—will have to stop, subject to some potential future exemptions.
Reportedly that day has been arriving, arriving, arriving for months—and in April, USPS put out a list of guidelines to apply for possible exemptions. However, it will not review any of them ahead of time, and there’s widespread fear that vape shops will shutter before USPS even has a chance to pore over those exemption applications.
“If consumers are not able to access or afford these reduced-risk alternatives to cigarettes, they will be forced to turn back to combustible tobacco.”
The endlessly upcoming mail ban implementation has been a source of disdain for those who believe it will both put a majority of run-of-the-mill vape shops and producers completely out of business, while limiting access to lifesaving technology for smokers looking to quit. Without private carriers like FedEx, and with USPS exemptions unlikely to occur quickly, vape producers and consumers are at their wits’ end.
“We rely on companies like FedEx to stock our store shelves and meet customer demand,” the letter reads. “Without the option to order vaping products at wholesale or ship their products to consumers, vape stores have seen their shipping options skyrocket in cost or evaporate entirely. “If consumers are not able to access or afford these reduced-risk alternatives to cigarettes, they will be forced to turn back to combustible tobacco, which is far more dangerous and will have life-long consequences on their health.”
And because many vape manufacturers are mom-and-pop shops, the letter writers argue, they do not have access to the alternative large-scale distribution networks which the tobacco industry uses to provide combustible cigarettes to retailers.
“FedEx is doing a great disservice to American small businesses and consumers,” Greg Conley, the president of AVA, said in a press statement. “They are playing right into the hands of Big Tobacco, which directly benefits from policies that make it more expensive for adult smokers to switch. Not only are vaping products legal and regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, but they are saving lives by keeping people off combustible cigarettes.”
Update, July 15, 2021: This article has been updated to clarify USPS’s implementation of its reportedly upcoming mail ban.
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