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UNC Study: Minors Easily Buy E-Cigarettes Online

A Duke University study found a link between poverty and smoking in adolescents.
Valentin Ottone via Flickr, Creative Commons

A new study out of UNC shows few online vendors have figured out a way to block minors from buying electronic cigarettes.

The study at UNC’s Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center included a group of teenagers who were recruited to go online and attempt to purchase nicotine e-cigarettes from 98 vendors.  The minors succeeded more than 90 percent of the time.

Rebecca Williams is the study’s lead investigator.

“It wasn’t a surprising finding for us how easily teens could buy e-cigarettes online because we’ve seen similar findings in our previous studies of online cigarette sales to minors," said Williams.

Williams says she’s not surprised because there are no federal laws enforcing e-cigarette online age verification.  

“And so without strictly enforced federal regulations, online e-cigarette vendors have little motivation to decrease their profits by spending the time and money it takes to properly verify customer’s age and reject underage buyers," said Williams.

Williams says minors were able to buy e-cigarettes despite a North Carolina law banning their purchase.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in 2013 that the number of teenagers smoking e-cigarettes doubled between 201102012.

The study is published, online, in The Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics.

Internet Tobacco Study
Credit UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center

Leoneda Inge is WUNC’s race and southern culture reporter, the first public radio journalist in the South to hold such a position. She also is co-host of the podcast Tested and host of the special podcast series, PAULI. Leoneda is the recipient of numerous awards from AP, RTDNA and NABJ. She’s been a reporting fellow in Berlin and Tokyo. You can follow her on Twitter @LeonedaInge.
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