Convenience stores to start carding for e-cigs

The nation’s convenience stores are moving to impose voluntary restrictions on purchases of electronic cigarettes ahead of an expected federal crackdown on the booming, yet largely unregulated, industry.

The National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) issued new guidelines Thursday to its thousands of members that would bring e-cigarette transactions under the same age-verification procedures used for tobacco sales.

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“Given the uncertain status of e-cigarettes, it just makes sense that convenience stores check IDs as part of the more than 4.5 million age-verification checks that we already conduct every day,” NACS President Henry Armour said in a written statement announcing the move.

Under the guidance issued Thursday, retailers are urged to follow all applicable rules in place to keep traditional cigarettes out of the hands of minors when selling e-cigarettes.

The trade group said it would follow the guidance with a campaign to promote the procedures. The new policy springs from a recent meeting of the NACS’s retail board of directors.

Convenience stores represent the largest conduit for e-cigarette purchases, with sales approaching $540 million in 2013. That represents roughly three-quarters of all brick-and-mortar sales, excluding kiosks and tobacco-only outlets, the group said.

Altogether, the industry has eclipsed a $1 billion in annual sales, yet remains largely unregulated.

The Food and Drug Administration has signaled it would bring the industry under authority granted to the agency by the 2009 Tobacco Control Act.

Regulations expected to do just that have sat under review at the White House since October. It is unclear how soon a final rule would be issued.