The Internet can be a beautiful thing. It allows us to communicate with people from anywhere in the world and to even have groceries delivered without anyone ever setting foot outside. The Internet allows us to become more connected with the world than ever before. But this added convenience and accessibility also removes barriers for kids to get their hands on things they shouldn’t.
A study published in the Tobacco Control Journal found that online vendors of electronic nicotine delivery devices leave a lot to be desired when it comes to preventing kids under 18 from getting their hands on these products. 90% of the online vendors completely failed to verify that their customers were over the age of 18 and used faulty age verification methods that were easy to fool. They were so easy to fool, in fact, that over 94% of minors in a North Carolina study were able to successfully make a purchase online and not one site satisfied the state’s online age verification laws.
Some online vendors claimed that if a customer was using a credit card then it meant they were over 18, which is not true. Minors can legally apply for a credit card if a parent or guardian adds them as an authorized user. Minors are also able to use prepaid gift cards, prepaid credit cards, and personal checking accounts to skirt around this system. About half of vendors relied age verification methods that were not capable of actually verifying age. These methods included boxes where customers could check off whether they were over 18 or not and spaces where they could enter in their date of birth, but a person could easily lie and fool the system. 5 vendors claimed to verify age when the product was delivered, but the study determined that was not true.
There are much stricter regulations when it comes to online sales of cigarettes compared to electronic devices. It’s illegal to purchase cigarettes online with credit cards and Paypal and major shipping companies are not allowed to deliver them. Such regulations do not extend to electronic devices. Anyone buying cigarettes online will have their age verified after cross-checking with a government records database at checkout. This study compared information on online vendors from 2013 to 2014 and discovered that results only got worse the longer the study went on. They expect the industry will jump from $2.5 billion in 2014 to $10 billion in 2017- something needs to be done.