A few public health officials are pushing for online electronic cigarette sales ban after reports surfaced that teen from 14-17 years old were buying the device online despite many sites age verification gateways. Though this report is not a surprise, many anti-vaping and anti-smoking advocates are using the report to raise alarms about teens purchasing electronic cigarettes. According to Rebecca Williams, UNC Chapel Hill, more than 12 teens make purchases from approximately 100 electronic cigarettes retailers online with high success rate of 93 %. In most cases, deliveries were left at the door, and age verification was not required.
While the report might sound too good to be true, there is a lot of issues you should analyse. Right off, why are online merchants expected to burn large amounts of money keeping teens form purchasing products when giving unrestricted debit or credit card to a teen is not a bad idea? In most cases, either the teen has stolen the credit or debit card, or the parents are not supervising the online purchase of a teen. However, neither the situation should put the obligation on online seller nor restrict them from selling their products.
With a valid credit or debit card, you can practically buy anything online: from alcohol and cars to guns and ammunition amongst other products purchased online. So, the real issue here is not electronic cigarettes, but age verification protocols. For instance, consider a situation in which a 14 month old baby was able to purchase a car from eBay without the knowledge or consent of her parents. It is a well-known issue that online age verification does not work, and blaming electronic cigarette companies for a problem that cuts across all online companies is not fair.
The reality is that the majority of the teens is not going to buy electronic cigarettes online. Remember, even before selling tobacco products was banned, many experts claimed that online sales control were not very essential as most teens obtained the products from family members, friends, and local stores where no one bother to check IDs.
If online purchase by teens is a problem, then it is not only a problem for the vaping industry, but also for other online retailing industries.