The Need for Robust Age Verification in Vaping E-Commerce
The United States is currently ablaze with the vaping craze. In the United States, vaping is now a $29 billion industry. Many exalt vaping’s benefits such as a reduced reliance on traditional cigarettes chock-full of chemicals, elimination of deadly second-hand smoke, and assistance in quitting smoking altogether with the tapering of nicotine strengths in vaping liquid.
Yet unfortunately, one glaring drawback of vaping is its attraction to those under age. Minors has been drawn to vaping for a variety of reasons. First, vaping is much easier to conceal than smoking traditional cigarettes. Second, many minors are not aware of the dangers of vaping due to the spread of misinformation about the contents of vaping liquid. Third, despite the fact that it is still illegal to sell to minors, e-cigarettes, or more specifically, the “vape juice” that is inhaled, has been much easier for children to obtain than traditional cigarettes.
What makes this situation challenging to control is that purchasing vaping supplies online can be extremely easy with few obstacles to those who are underage. This begs the question: how can minors be kept from purchasing vaping products online?
Teens and Vaping
The 2019 Monitoring the Future report stated that nearly half of all 12th graders surveyed tried vaping at least once, and 25% had vaped within the previous month. Until recently, the minimum age for purchasing tobacco was 18, which many 12th graders are. This allowed vaping to spread at near epidemic rates through high schools.
The teen vaping issue isn’t helped by pervasive vape marketing. In 2015, over 80% of teens were exposed to e-cigarette advertisements, which has only served to exacerbate the problem. A study in the Journal for American Academy of Pediatrics, reported that youths exposed to e-cigarette marketing were more likely to try vaping within the following year.
Unfortunately, many vaping companies directly target teenagers. “E-cigarettes make frequent appearances on social media newsfeeds and timelines,” according to the Truth Initiative. “E-cigarette companies capitalize on this regulatory gap by offering kid-friendly flavors, such as cotton candy and gummi bear, and packaging e-liquids to look like common food items,” the Truth Initiative continues. Some vaping companies have even offered college scholarships, several even without a minimum age equal to the legal smoking age.
Challenges of Online Vape Sales
It’s one thing to turn away a minor who attempts to purchase vaping products in a brick-and-mortar convenience store where the customer can be seen and their ID can be checked. However, it is much more difficult to achieve that same discernibility on the internet. And while fake IDs have been around for a long time, getting that fake ID past a seasoned convenience store clerk is much more difficult than getting past a questionable website that doesn’t care how old the customer is as long as they can pay.
Many age-restricted websites provide cursory age verification methods such as age gates as an attempt to limit minors. Age gates are fields or questions on an e-commerce website that simply ask if the potential customer is legally of age to purchase products. Age gates can be in the form of a yes/no question or entering in one’s birthdate. As imagined, it is very easy to lie on an age gate without consequence. Due to their being weak hurdles, age gates are quickly becoming a thing of the past.
Other less scrupulous online vaping retailers will simply flout the law altogether. These online retailers can often get away without checking age because of the ambiguity of the digital space in and of itself.
Furthermore, many of these sellers are not offering a legitimate product to begin with. Nonetheless, they are more than willing to accept a customer’s money and ship them their product, seemingly unconcerned about the details beyond that point.
More Robust Online Safeguards
In 2019, vaping-related illness and deaths took over news headlines. Of the 2,291 people who became ill, 15% were under the age of 18. These illnesses and their impact on minors sent a shockwave through the United States. In response, many cities and states began debating prohibiting vape products or at the very least, a way to limit its access to minors.
This public pressure has been encouraging vaping retailers to get more serious about their age verification systems and software. As currently used age gates lack reliability and dependability, a more robust safeguard is needed in the online vaping retail space.
For online vaping retailers, Konfirmi is the solution. Konfirmi provides cutting-edge customer verification software at a low-cost with simple implementation. Konfirmi cross-references customer information with billions of online records maintained by reputable third-party data providers, making it nearly impossible to deceive with something as common as a fake ID.
This allows any online retailer who is serious about meeting legal requirements and maintaining a good public reputation to be able to do so all while providing customers with a user-friendly entry point.
Under-aged vaping is a problem that has only recently been identified but will continue to snowball if not addressed. It will almost certainly take years to repair the damage caused by unchecked marketing and unregulated e-commerce. Implementing a robust form of age verification is a positive step to resolve this. Providers such as Konfirmi provide low-cost and simple-to-use solutions to make that step much easier to take.