A new study investigating the electronic cigarette age-verification law in North Carolina found that minors have had no problem bypassing the law in making purchases of e-cigarettes sold through online retailers.
Although retailers are required to use age verification when selling electronic cigarettes, the majority of vendors are not following state laws. By failing to verify age of buyers, a large number of people under the age of 18 are making purchases.
Since first being introduced in the US in 2007, sales of e-cigarettes have climbed. In just six years, this has become a $2 billion annual industry. However, experts predict that by 2017, sales will easily reach $10 billion.
In a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the rate of electronic cigarette us among teens has increased dramatically. In fact, from 2011 to 2012, numbers doubled. In 2013, it was estimated than over 250,000 million students in high school who never smoked more conventional cigarettes had smoked e-cigarettes.
Manufacturers and retailers of electronic cigarettes commonly advertise them as being a much safer alternative to regular cigarettes but according to the Mayo Clinic and US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the electronic version of cigarettes still contain nicotine and other substances that are potentially cancer-causing.
Currently, the sale of e-cigarettes to minors is prohibited in 41 states, which includes the state of North Carolina. However, among retailers who sell these cigarettes online, age verification is seldom performed as mandated.
Rebecca S. Williams with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and who is also involved with the study along with colleagues, wanted to determine how often online retailers complied with the age-verification law in North Carolina.
To make their determination, 11 minors between 14 and 17 years of age and who did not smoke, were recruited to make online purchases of electronic cigarettes using a credit card. The purchases were supervised and completed at offices associated with the project.
In all, 98 online vendors were targeted as part of this study and in attempting to make purchases the minors successfully ordered electronic cigarettes from 75. Among the unsuccessful purchases just five did not go through because of age verification. Simply put, 93.7% of online vendors sold to minors because they failed to follow the law.
Researchers of the study also found age was not verified by the shipping companies as well. Of all purchases, 95% were left on the doorstep. As stated by company policy and under federal regulation, all of the shipping companies involved do not ship cigarettes to consumers.
The bottom line is that without federal regulation, minors can easily purchase electronic cigarettes online. Obviously, this is a major concern for parents but also medical and government groups such as the Mayo Clinic and CDC.