Lack of Regulation Makes it Easy for Teens to Order E-Cigs

Mar 20, 2015

Right now 41 states prohibit online e-cig sales to minors, but a new study finds that despite these laws minors are still able to order e-cigs with little to no resistance. This makes many health advocates worry about the potential of teen addiction to electronic cigarettes. They note that the aim for anti-tobacco groups has been to stop the devastating health issues faced by long term tobacco use. They fear that unfettered access to e-cigs will create lifelong e-cig addicts, creating the same health crisis as tobacco.

Due to the absence of federal regulation, e-cigarette sellers are essentially working off of the honor system when it comes to policing who buys their products. Identity verification software is available that acts as a barrier to illegal purchases made by minors. Even though this software exists, many online retailers choose not to install it. Rebecca Williams, a leading e-cig researcher, coordinated a study where 11 minors placed 98 illegal online orders. A total of 75 were successful, and of the 23 that failed, only 5 were the result of age verification software. And of the packages that were delivered, 95 percent were left on the doorstep unsigned.

While most health advocates know that software will not stop the most persistent of teens from ordering e-cigs, they note that responsible vendors should utilize the software to act as a deterrent. Unfortunately, if an e-cig manufacturer is unwilling to adopt age verification software or other similar measures, there is little the law can do if the vendor operates from a state without regulation.

It is for this reason that many health advocates are pushing for cohesive federal regulation that holds all vendors, regardless of location, to the same standards. Until this happens, they believe, the burden will fall on local legislators, law enforcement, and the general community.

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