A group of 14 to 17 year olds were asked to purchase electronic cigarettes online. Of the 98 attempted purchases, some 76% succeeded despite many sites having an age verification gate. Though this is not at all a surprise, many anti-smoking and anti-vaping advocates are using this study to raise alarms about teens purchasing e-cigs.
You can read more about the study here.
I have a lot of issues with this. Right off, I have to wonder why online merchants are expected to burn vast sums of money keeping teens from purchasing products when I can’t imagine giving an unrestricted credit or debit card to a teen to be a good idea. So in most cases, either the parents are not supervising a teen’s online purchases, or the teen has stolen an adults debit or credit card. Neither situation should put the onus on online sellers.
Take this situation in which a 14 month old toddler was able to buy a car from eBay without her parents’ consent or knowledge. It is a well known issue that online age verification doesn’t work. Blaming e-cig companies for a problem that all companies run into is hardly fair. If this were truly an issue, there would be better infrastructure in place to fix the issue.
But the reality is that most teens aren’t going to purchase online. Even before selling tobacco products online was all but banned, many experts claimed that proposed controls for online sale weren’t very necessary as most teens obtained cigarettes from friends, family members, and local stores. Incidence of actual tobacco cigarette purchasing online by teens was incredibly low.
It doesn’t look to me like vaping companies owe the world any more than other companies that sell products that teens shouldn’t purchase online. If a teen has a credit or debit card, we’ve found it very hard to prevent them from purchasing weapons, vehicles, alcohol, and more. If this is a problem, it is not just a problem for the electronic cigarette and vaping industry.