Underage Smokers Easily Buying e-Cigarettes Online: Study

Selling e-cigarettes to minors are not allowed in 41 states in the U.S. but findings of a new study reveal that youngsters are still able to get their hands on these devices because they can easily buy them online.

In a new study published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics on March 2, researchers have shown that teens who attempt to buy e-cigarettes on the internet manage to do so most of the time.

Study researcher Rebecca Williams, from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and colleagues asked 11 teens between 14 and 17 years old who do not smoke to try to purchase e-cigarettes online from 98 of the most popular vendors on the internet.

The researchers found that out of 98 attempted purchases, only five were rejected because of age reasons. Eighteen of the orders were not able to push through not because of the buyer's age but because of poorly designed websites.

None of the participants were likewise asked to provide proof of their age when their orders were delivered with 95 percent of the packages only left at the doorstep. The minors in general were able to make 75 successful orders.

"Of the total orders, 18 failed for reasons unrelated to age verification. Only 5 of the remaining 80 youth purchase attempts were rejected owing to age verification, resulting in a youth buy rate of 93.7%," Williams and colleagues reported in their study.

North Carolina requires that online vendors verify the age of e-cigarette customers with a government records database but based on the researchers' findings, the vendors involved in their study did not comply with the state's e-cigarette age-verification law.

States have been regulating e-cigarettes over concerns that they can lead to the addiction of young people to nicotine. Williams and colleagues said that their findings are concerning for states that try to regulate e-cigarette access of the youth.

Although e-cigarettes contain nicotine, an addictive substance, no federal law prohibiting the sale of e-cigarettes to minors is currently in place. Last year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) made a proposal to place e-cigarettes under their regular jurisdiction for tobacco regulation but this has not yet been made into law.

"Without strictly enforced federal regulations, online e-cigarette vendors have little motivation to decrease profits by spending the time and money it takes to properly verify customers' age and reject underage buyers," Williams said

Photo: TBEC Review

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