After a tense period during which vaping advocates expected the House of Representatives to take up (and probably pass) Senate bill S 1253 at any moment, the House left on July 31 for its scheduled August recess without addressing the vape mail ban. While nobody knows exactly why the bill didn’t get a vote in July, one thing is certain: it will be back soon.
The bill directs the U.S. Postal Service to make a rule prohibiting the shipping of vaping products through the mail, and forces private delivery services to obtain an adult signature at the point of delivery. As we noted in a previous story about S 1253, delivery by DHL, FedEx or UPS is more expensive, and those private companies aren’t required to deliver to any address they don’t want to. That means that vapers in rural areas, which are the least likely to have vape shops nearby, will be especially punished by this legislation.
Further, the private delivery services will probably be targeted by anti-vaping groups to pressure them into refusing all vape product shipments. If FDA rules force vape shops out of business, and online sales are restricted or ended, vapers will have no options except gray and black markets.
The House is not scheduled to hold any votes until mid-September. But legislators may get called back to Washington early to pass economic relief bills related to the coronavirus pandemic. And even though they are unlikely to vote on unrelated legislation like the vape mail ban, it is possible. In any case, the recess gives vapers unexpected time to organize further pressure on legislators to oppose S 1253.
It’s important to do that now, because the closer we get to the Sept. 9 PMTA deadline, the less attention S 1253 will get on social media. Many vapers will be so focused next month on the FDA’s folly that the pending vape mail ban could be ignored completely.
The recess is actually a good time to contact Congressional offices. While representatives are working in their districts and campaigning for reelection, and many staff members take vacations during the recess, a core staff remains in their Washington offices, studying legislation and listening to constituents’ concerns. It will be much easier for a concentrated stream of calls and emails opposing S 1253 to get noticed by the smaller staff.
The House passed a very similar bill last fall, and the Senate passed S 1253 on a voice vote. Any member could have demanded a recorded vote (where they vote yes or no publicly), but none did. That indicates that Republicans in the House are likely to follow their Senate counterparts and join the Democratic majority to support what seems (to them) like a harmless bill that simply prevents sales to minors.
It is up to vapers to contact their House representatives—Democrats and Republicans—and ask them to oppose this bill. Unless vapers actually get together and focus pressure on House members now, S 1253 will almost certainly pass in September. And President Trump is unlikely to veto any bill with wide support from both parties.