In conjunction with the state’s first Youth Vaping Summit, Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge on Monday (Oct. 7) called on retail giant eBay to remove electronic nicotine devices and products from its online sales platform. Rutledge also urged eBay to take steps to enforce its own policy against the sale or advertisement of tobacco products.
Additionally, she issued an Enforcement Advisory to 100 online e-cigarette retailers, warning these retailers that it is illegal to sell or ship any tobacco products, including e-cigarettes and e-liquids, to consumers in Arkansas.
“Misinformation and opportunities for youth to illegally buy vaping products online have contributed to the vaping epidemic across the nation and our state. It is my responsibility to educate our youth on the dangers of vaping and hold those accountable who break the law,” said Rutledge. “With more children and teens becoming sick and addicted to nicotine, we cannot stand idle and watch a health crisis fester within our state. If you are selling illegal products to Arkansas children, prepare to face consequences.”
The letter sent to eBay Inc. President and CEO Devin Wenig by Rutledge urges the company to comply with its own policy banning the sale and advertisement of tobacco products on its site. A review of eBay.com shows an extensive list of e-cigarette related products and no age verification process, she said.
In June 2018, similar action was taken when Rutledge successfully sent a letter to eBay and other retailers in banning the online sale of the extremely potent unwashed poppy seeds on their websites.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 27.5% of high school students used e-cigarettes or vaping products in 2019. Arkansas lawmakers have sounded the alarm on vaping regulations.
Senate President Jim Hendren, R-Gravette, and Sen. Missy Irvin, R-Mountain Views, who chairs the Senate Public Health committee, have called for a special session to consider ways to stem the vaping epidemic, which has led to health issues and potential deaths.
Hendren has proposed the School Safety Act, which would levy a 67% privilege tax on e-cigarettes like the one levied on many other tobacco products. Cigarettes in Arkansas are taxed at a rate of $1.15 per pack. The bill would add e-cigarettes to the Arkansas Clean Indoor Air Act of 2006, which prohibits smoking indoors in public places. It also would ban e-cigarette advertising on outdoor billboards located within 1,000 feet of a public or private school or playground, and make other restrictions.
Last month, the House and Senate Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committees voted to adopt an interim study on the issue.
Rutledge hosted the first Youth Vaping Summit for parents, medical professionals, educators and legislators at Arkansas Children’s Hospital on Monday. A similar summit will take place Wednesday (Oct. 9) at Bentonville High School.
Along with the enforcement advisories and communication with eBay, Rutledge has released a public service announcement addressing the dangers and damage caused by vaping.