Minors have easy online access to E-cigs
New study shows that minors have easy online access to E-cigs
According to an article published on northcarolinahealthnews.org, underage teens have more and better access to E-cigs online than most people realize. In fact, the article describes a study that took place recently to gauge how difficult it really is for teens to buy electronic cigarette devices online – and the results were admittedly pretty surprising.
While legislation in the state of North Carolina prohibits the sale of these types of devices to minors (and has since 2013), it seems that many websites don’t have enough security in place to actually keep teens from successfully buying them… and many people are citing it as a major problem.
The details of the study
In this study, Researcher Rebecca Williams from UNC-Chapel Hill, recruited 11 teenagers ranging in ages from 14 to 17, and then supervised them as they attempted to buy electronic cigarettes online. 98 different transactions were attempted by the teenagers over the course of the study – but only 5 of them failed due to age-verification requirements.
Most of the tested E-cig websites used some kind of age verification method – but it seems that many of them were not fool-proof enough to keep teens from ordering electronic cigarettes if they really wanted to. Most of them simply required that the purchaser check an ‘over 18’ box before checking out – which is obviously pretty easy to get around.
According to the study, the only consistent and effective age verification technique utilized by any of the websites was a technique in which the website asked for both a date of birth and a social security number. Most of the other techniques, however, were easily skirted – which seems to be a bit of a problem.
What affect will this study have on the E-cig market in the US?
According to the article, the results of this study were partly responsible for why the FDA will be reviewing a list of suggestions made by the Internet Tobacco Vendors Study to begin regulating the sale of E-cigarettes.
Obviously, since the results of this study have been made public, people have been calling for the FDA to regulate how websites operating or selling in the US verify the ages of their customers before making a sale – and in a sense, it seems that such regulation might be a positive thing, as long as it doesn’t go so far as to seriously inhibit businesses in the E-cig market (especially the smaller ones).
What do we think of this study?
The facts and figures certainly don’t lie. There does indeed seem to be a problem with how a lot of websites screen for minors. And while it’s not necessarily a given that many minors are actually ordering E-cigs online, the fact that they could get them if they wanted to might be a bit of a cause for concern.
Some believe that restricting the sale of E-cigs to minors would be a bad thing, because it might increase their odds of simply turning to cigarettes – but we have always taken a bit of a different approach to this problem.
We believe that E-cigs are very beneficial, in a number of ways – but nicotine can be dangerous to the brain of a minor, and restricting the sale and use of nicotine-based products among minors certainly doesn’t seem to be a bad idea.
In the end, what we need to keep in mind is that the health and safety of our children should be our first and foremost priority. Granted, there is still a problem with cigarettes, but at least that problem is shrinking with every passing decade.
In the future, we might one day wake up to a tobacco-free world – a world in which people no longer use cigarettes because of the negative health concerns.
Until that time, electronic cigarettes remain a valuable tool in the fight against analog cigarettes – but they are still a tool that probably needs to be regulated so that minors cannot simply order them online whenever they wish to.