Is Your Teen Buying E-Cigarettes Online?

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As the popularity of e-cigarettes grows in the United States, their use among teenagers is also increasing. While e-cigarettes are useful for adults as a smoking cessation aid, there are plenty of reasons to worry about whether or not your teenager is using e-cigarettes. While most states ban the sale of e-cigarettes to teens, studies show that teens are discovering an easy way to purchase them–online.

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What are E-Cigarettes?

An e-cigarette is an electronic cigarette that doesn’t contain tobacco, but does contain nicotine made from tobacco plants. Also called personal vaporizers or electronic nicotine delivery systems, e-cigarettes are similar in appearance to traditional cigarettes. However, instead of burning tobacco, e-cigarettes use vaporized liquid that consists of ingredients like glycerin, propylene glycol, nicotine and more.

Experts agree that e-cigarettes are safer than traditional cigarettes when it comes to the user’s health, as well as the health of bystanders. However, the effects are not well known and there is only limited evidence and many more studies to be conducted. Some studies show that using e-cigarettes may cause addiction in non-smokers. In other words, teens who use e-cigarettes may become addicted to nicotine without even smoking a traditional cigarette.

Why Do Teens Want E-Cigarettes?

Teens want to use e-cigarettes for the same reason they seek traditional cigarettes–to rebel, to feel more like an adult, to fit in with peers and to experiment. Experts worry that because e-cigarettes are considered “safe” that teens who wouldn’t normally pick up a traditional cigarette will turn to e-cigarettes.

Whether traditional or electronic, cigarettes cannot be sold to minors. However, fast and convenient internet commerce has made it easier than ever for teens to get their hands on e-cigarettes.

How Do Teens Order E-Cigarettes Online?

According to a study published in USAToday, teens can easily order e-cigarettes online and get away with it, thanks to lax order screening and delivery services. In the study, out of 98 underage attempts to purchase e-cigarettes, only 5 were rejected because of age. Online retailers are supposed to verify a customer’s age, but as the study showed, that rarely happened. Because teens today often have access to their parent’s credit card, or even their own, buying e-cigarettes online is just as easy as ordering the latest video game.

The second part of teens getting their hands on e-cigarettes via online is the delivery system. In the above study, when the e-cigarettes were delivered, non of the teen recipients were asked for proof of age, and often the packages were left on the doorstep. This should cause parents to worry that their teens may be accessing products that they shouldn’t, yet parents are relying on a faulty system to prevent such things from happening.

What Can Parents Do?

There are several things parents can do to reduce the likelihood that their teen is not buying e-cigarettes online:

  • Parental control settings on the computers at home
  • Monitoring credit card use and not sharing numbers with teens
  • Communicating about the health risks e-cigarettes
  • Discussing the dangers of breaking the law to order e-cigarettes as a minor
  • Support legislation requiring tougher screening requirements for e-cigarette retailers

When it comes to keeping kids safe and healthy, parents need to stay one step ahead of their clever teenagers who will continue to find ways around the system to get what they want. It’s up to parents to stay educated and savvy about the possibilities that the teens are exploiting when it comes to ordering e-cigarettes online.