A new study by researchers at the University of North Carolina has revealed just how incredibly easy it is for teenagers to procure electronic cigarettes online.
Researchers found that just five out of 98 attempts by teenagers to purchase e-cigarettes from online retailers were thwarted by an age-verification mechanism.
“Very few online vendors even gave the appearance of trying to comply with North Carolina’s e-cigarette age verification law,” Rebecca S. Williams, the study’s lead investigator and a researcher at North Carolina’s Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, said in a press release.
The study allowed teenagers to use false birthdays and check various boxes to disguise their identity during purchase attempts. Of the 98 attempts, 18 failed as results in glitches and web design flaws unrelated to the vendor’s age verification.
That means 80 orders were successful, giving teens a 93.7 percent chance of procuring e-cigs.
Many of the vendors used age verification in appearance only — meaning sellers asked date of birth and address information, but rarely confirmed the inputs with available reference databases.
“Thirty-five percent of the vendors asked for date of birth, and that could potentially be used with a name and address to verify customers’ age in a public records database, but in most cases, it wasn’t,” Williams explained.
Forty-one states ban the sale of e-cigarettes to minors, but there is no federal ban in place.
The details of the study — funded by the National Cancer Institute — were published this week in the journal The Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics.