This isn’t a surprise, but most e-cigarette manufacturers fail to verify the age of their customers. Teenagers under the age of 18 easily buy e-cigarettes, even in states where there in an under-18 ban.
North Carolina researchers conducted the study with 11 teens between the ages of 14 and 17. None of the teens smoked, but were asked to attempt purchases from 98 of the most popular e-cigarette vendors on the Internet.
North Carolina actually has an age ban for e-cigarettes, but only five orders were rejected due to age verification problems. Eighteen orders failed due to website issues. Out of the 98 potential orders, 75 were successful despite the customer being a minor.
If companies were expecting to lean on age verification on delivery, it didn’t show in the study. None confirmed age on delivery, and 95% of the time, the package was left at the door.
Currently, there is no Federal law on the books banning the devices for the under-18 crowd. This despite e-cigarettes containing nicotine, which is an addictive substance. The results are concerning for states trying to regulate the sale of the popular devices. North Carolina has a ban in place, yet the teens ordered like it was Amazon.
The FDA does have a proposal to regulate e-cigarettes under existing tobacco legislation. While proposed, it is expected to take years until it becomes the law of the land. 41 states currently either ban the sale or have pending legislation to institute a ban.
The North Carolina researchers show that state bans have little to no impact. “Without strictly enforced federal regulations, online e-cigarette vendors have little motivation to decrease profits by spending the time and money it takes to properly verify customers’ age and reject underage buyers,” says study author Rebecca S. Williams, public health researcher at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
When a federal ban does come into effect, it would prohibit the vendors from skirting the age verification. The USPS, UPS, DHL and FedEx would also treat the devices like traditional tobacco. Under those guidelines, tobacco products will only be delivered between licensed distributors and vendors.
What concerns researchers is the lack of urgency. The FDA proposal is on the books, yet years away from becoming law. Meanwhile, e-cigarette use has more than tripled from 2011 to 2013. It literally begs for federal action, yet it is being slow-walked through the halls of Congress.