Although encouraging progress has been made in reducing youth access to tobacco from retail outlets, the emergence of Internet cigarette vendors (ICVs) has raised new concerns. Today over 8 million teens have Internet access, representing over half of the U.S. teen population. Underage interns at several state Attorney Generals' offices have successfully purchased cigarettes online, but little is known about the vending practices of ICVs. We are unaware of any scientific studies that have examined youth access to tobacco via the Internet. Using the top five Internet search engines and four keywords, we examined 1808 "hits" to identify 68 domestic ICVs. All sites were downloaded and content analyzed by two independent coders for the presence of warnings, age verification methods, and registration with parent control filters. 81% of ICVs specified one or more age warnings but only 24% featured a Surgeon General's Warning. The most common methods of age verification, in order, were: customer self reporting they are 18 or older (52%), typing in a birth date (15%), and entering driver's license information (7%). No sites were registered with parent control filters. 70% allowed purchase with money order or certified check, which are easy for minors to acquire. In summary, ICVs employ flimsy age verification procedures and fail to take adequate precaution to avoid selling to minors. New policies are needed that mandate prominently located age warnings, more rigorous age verification methods at points of order and delivery, and studies to monitor youth access through online purchase surveys with minors.
Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the session, the participant in this session will be able to: 1. Describe vending practices of Internet cigarette vendors 2. Discuss policy recommendations for restricting youth access to tobacco purchases online
Keywords: Internet, Tobacco Policy
Presenting author's disclosure statement:
Organization/institution whose products or services will be discussed: None
I do not have any significant financial interest/arrangement or affiliation with any organization/institution whose products or services are being discussed in this session.
The 128th Annual Meeting of APHA