Online age verification

A once little known battery-powered device called an e-cigarette that turns nicotine-laced water into vapor are now a hot market with sales approaching $2 billion (compared to U.S. tobacco market of $100 billion) and attracting extensive investor interest. E-cigarettes are also attracting a number of other things, including heated debate on whether they lure children to nicotine addiction.  Marketing of e-cigs through social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, celebrity endorsement, and cartoon characters like “Mr. Cool” appear to be very successful with a majority of teenagers (89%) and nearly all young adults (94%) are aware of e-cigarettes.

The Food and Drug Administration, the agency charged with regulating the industry, is implementing the first round of federal rules. The initial regulations are generally less stringent than those that regulate tobacco. Lorillard, the forerunner in the industry by market share, was one of many e-cig companies pleased with the first rules. But now the battle is on. More than two dozen state attorney generals are urging the FDA to impose more restrictions, very similar to those on cigarettes. Prohibiting television advertising and banning the wide variety of candy and fruit flavors, a feature that has been a major selling point for e-cigs, are on the list of requested restrictions.

The 33 page multi-state attorney general signed document recommends a number of restrictions for e-cigarettes and as well as other tobacco products. Highlights of the restricts include:

  • prohibit sales of pipe tobacco to minors, as well as ban the sale of pipe tobacco from vending machines unless the vending machine is located in a facility where individuals under the age of 18 are prohibited from entering at any time.
  • finalize the proposals setting a minimum age of purchase for cigars, prohibiting vending machine sales of cigars, and prescribing health warnings for cigars.
  • address the threat to youth from e-cigarette advertising and marketing by subjecting such advertising and marketing to all of the regulations promulgated under section 102 of the Tobacco Control Act, not just the age-verification requirements, by brining those regulations up to date to reflect modern marketing methods, and by instituting a ban on e-cigarette advertising in electronic media.

The perspective of many e-cigarette companies is that they are not targeting minors, but that the flavors are intended to help adult smokers migrate to e-cigarettes, which are less harmful than regular cigarettes and don’t emit second hand smoke.  Furthermore, e-cigarette makers say they support prohibiting sales to minors. Lorillard has a Youth Smoking Prevention Program. The first screen on Njoy’s website requires visitors to verify that they are over 18, or the minimum legal smoking age where they live. No identity verification is required, and the default of “I’m Over 18” is selected already, but it is a statement in principal at least. They do require date-of-birth as part of the purchase process, and clearly state that they will conduct age verification against “official documents like a driver’s license.” Logic has a similar gate on their initial screen with this message; “Logic products must be used by persons of legal smoking age according to each state law. Identification of all persons under the age of 26 required before purchase.”  Entry of date-of-birth is required to continue, and even if you don’t put anything and use the site for information, creating an account requires age verification. Not all e-cigarette sites have such clear statements or processes about age restrictions, however, and companies that have not implemented age verification processes may be hurting the industry. Clearly, not only the FDA but a number of states are concerned about the access of minors to e-cigarettes. E-cigarette companies should be listening and preempting criticisms as an industry by implementing strong age protections using identity verification. Trulioo can help you respond quickly, whether your business need to start or improve onboard age verification protections.