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The study which was published in the journal Tobacco Control identified 3,096 online e-cigarette vendors in 2014, as opposed to 980 in 2013. The reason why the researchers were troubled by these figures is the fact that these vendors were cheap products with no age restrictions, hence making them easily accessible to minors. “This study shows that e-cigarettes have been widely available online to minors and adults alike, at extremely cheap prices, with a wide variety of youth-appealing flavors, and making many unsubstantiated health claims to draw in customers,” said lead author Lineberger’s Rebecca Williams, MHS, PhD.

Same patterns were noticed with cigarettes before they were regulated online

Earlier this year, the same researchers had published another study in which they identified concerns with the age verification, shipping, and delivery processes used by online e-cigarette sellers. Additionally highlighted Williams, the issues highlighted via this study mirrored those identified in earlier studies looking at online sales of combustible cigarettes, before adequate regulations were set in place.

“This study shows that e-cigarettes have been widely available online to minors and adults alike, at extremely cheap prices, with a wide variety of youth-appealing flavors, and making many unsubstantiated health claims to draw in customers.” Rebecca Williams, MHS, PhD, Lead Author

The researchers found that in 2014, 52.3% of the online vendors made health claims about e-cigarettes, 26% said that the devices were reliable smoking cessation tools, while 36.8% stated the opposite, meaning that a significant amount of conflicting information could be found online.  

“Nearly half of the Internet e-cigarette vendors made health claims, sometimes featuring official claims that they are not smoking cessation devices alongside conflicting ‘customer testimonial’ claims that read like carefully written marketing copy espousing how e-cigarettes help many people quit,” said Williams.

Youths should not have online access to vaping products

“Nearly half of the Internet e-cigarette vendors made health claims, sometimes featuring official claims that they are not smoking cessation devices alongside conflicting ‘customer testimonial’ claims that read like carefully written marketing copy espousing how e-cigarettes help many people quit.” Rebecca Williams, MHS, PhD, Lead Author

We now have a significant number of studies that indicate that e-cigarettes are not only significantly safer than regular cigarettes, but they are also effective smoking cessation aides. Despite this, public health experts are in agreement that regulations need to be set in place in order to make the products inaccessible to minors. Williams said that the compiled data, pertaining to the sales and the marketing of the products online, should be analysed and used by the FDA to inform future regulations pertaining to the products.