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E-Cigarettes and Youth: Addressing and preventing underage e-cig access

Let’s come right out and say it – if you’re younger than legal smoking age, we don’t want your business. And most, if not all, of our competitors would say the exact same thing.

E-cigarettes are an adult product, and despite the endless blather about flavors and marketing, they are positioned as such. Though most contentious anti-vaping groups will claim our industry is lurking in dark alleys, waiting to bait unsuspecting youth, it simply isn’t the case.

And, for the extremists who believe e-cigs are actually a gateway to tobacco, I regret to report that scientists have confirmed there is no visible link between trying e-cigarettes and taking up traditional tobacco smoking.

Sorry, antagonists. But just as the e-cig industry is prepared to offer proof of what e-cigs are (and aren’t), you will need to provide equal proof for your side of the argument.

And that proof simply isn’t there.

Further studies of youth e-cig adoption

In fact, the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center recently led a separate study of 1,300 college students, and found no correlation between trying e-cigarettes and smoking tobacco.

According to the University of Oklahoma report:

Just 43 of 1,300 students said their first nicotine product was an e-cigarette. Of that group, only 1 person claimed they went on to smoke regular cigarettes. A vast majority who used e-cigarettes said they weren’t currently using any nicotine or tobacco.

The findings, it was noted, did not suggest that e-cigs are risk-free. Again, this is an adult activity. But nonetheless, there was no evidential proof of e-cigs being a gateway to anything.

Addressing the nature of youth

We need to come to grips with the reality of youth culture, peer pressure and the general order of things. Kids who become interested in trying nicotine products are going to try nicotine products. And, by and large, those products will be cigarettes and chewing tobacco.

Let’s face it, in the eyes of today’s youth, the “danger factor” of cigarettes likely make them much more appealing than “safe and boring” e-cigs.

While disposable e-cigs and e-liquid are becoming harder to get by the day, cigarettes and chewing tobacco haven’t gotten any more challenging to obtain. The same careless shop owners who sold tobacco to minors yesterday are doing it today.

And, with the mind-blowing rise in the cost of a pack of cigarettes, they may even be MORE motivated to move some product, regardless of customer age.

Plus, let’s not forget the social aspect of cigarette smoking. I would venture to say that most underage smokers didn’t set out to buy a pack when they started. They bummed a smoke from a friend or acquaintance. Then they bummed another one.

It was only after realizing they enjoyed cigarettes that they bought them … and anything else like them.

 

Going beyond established standards

In order to keep young hands off our products, we maintain the utmost standards of diligence in our e-commerce and in-person sales practices. At White Cloud, we target our products SOLELY at adult smokers looking for an alternative to traditional tobacco smoking, as well as to existing electronic cigarette users looking for better-quality products.

To ensure youth do not obtain White Cloud products from our sales sources, we go beyond the ineffective self-verification windows that appear on so many adult-themed sites. Let’s be real, the only people deterred by self-verification are those too young to understand how it works, or an underage George Washington.

Everyone else does the appropriate math, enters a relevant DOB, and shops away.

Since February 2014, White Cloud has incorporated age verification technology from LexisNexis®, which is a provider of content-enabled workflow solutions for a wide range of professional markets. This level of verification links to their databases to confirm age and prevent all who are underage from purchasing our products.

Those who do not appear in the system are required to provide identification to verify age. Those who refuse will not be permitted to make any purchases.

Guess what? It works. To date, our results show:

13% of those rejected admitted being under legal age 39% of those rejected was due to a lack of response for further ID 43% of those rejected was due to refusal to submit additional ID after AV referral

Some notable highlights:

In one instance, when age verification was requested, someone (assumed to be the mother) replied confirming the purchaser was underage and ordering without her knowledge. Several rejected purchasers confirmed they were underage, and said they would instead buy other brands of e-cigs in local stores. One person indicated they would get his/her mother to order instead (and we promptly placed an alert on the address) One person actually phoned back, confirmed they were underage and apologized for wasting our time!

An industry-wide responsibility

Though this seems a little self-congratulatory, our goal for this post was not only to address the truths and myths of youth e-cig adoption, but more importantly, to alert the industry to get ahead of this concern.

Regulations are looming. The initial FDA proposals were less stringent than expected, but make no mistake, more are coming. Couple this with growing amounts of anti-vaping media coverage, reports of irresponsible e-cig usage, etc., and you have a mounting problem.

As an e-cig company, we stand behind our efforts in marketing and age verification to keep White Cloud products away from youth. As an industry, we should work together to further such efforts, and cement our standing as legitimate companies, offering high-quality alternatives to traditional smoking products.

Our detractors will have plenty to say against us. Let’s take a few BB’s out of their guns, shall we?

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Original author: Michael Murray
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