Teens Can Easily Buy E-Cigarettes Online

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MONDAY, March 2, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- It's easy for teens to buy electronic cigarettes online, a small study finds.

Researchers supervised 11 teens in North Carolina, aged 14 to 17, as they tried to buy e-cigarettes from 98 online sellers. The teens ordered e-cigarettes successfully 75 times. The e-cigarette sales were denied just 23 times. The purchases should have been denied every time.

"In the absence of federal regulation, youth e-cigarette use has increased and e-cigarette sellers online operate in a regulatory vacuum, using few, if any, efforts to prevent sales to minors," according to the report written by Rebecca Williams, from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and her co-authors.

"Even in the face of state laws like North Carolina's requiring age verification, most vendors continue to fail to even attempt to verify age in accordance with the law, underscoring the need for careful enforcement," the researchers concluded.

Currently, 41 states ban e-cigarette sales to minors. But it's not clear how well e-cigarette sellers comply with those laws. North Carolina passed an age-verification law for the purchase of e-cigarettes in 2013, according to the researchers.

Only five of the 23 rejections in this study were related to age verification. That means nearly 94 percent of e-cigarette sellers didn't verify their customers' ages, the researchers said.

The study was published online March 2 in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.

More information

The U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse has more about electronic cigarettes.