Availability of vaping products to minors online causes concern to health officials

Published: Aug. 12, 2019 at 6:10 PM CDT
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Young people under the age of 18 can easily buy vape products and e-cigarettes online, even in places where it is illegal. Area health officials say that is partly to blame for the recent spikes in teens using them.

"It is very, very concerning," Pramod Dwivedi, Linn County Public Health Director, said.

Dwivedi said he noticed the spike in use locally. According to the Iowa Youth Survey, 11th graders using e-cigarettes increased from 5 percent in 2016 to 19 percent in 2018.

"Kids have different mindsets," Dwivedi said. "They want to try it and use it, so they can find ways to obtain it."

Online sales are a big market. Although I.D. checks are required in brick and mortar stores, it is easy for underage kids to go the online store route without having to verify their age.

KCRG-TV9 looked into just how easy it is. Several online stores only required buyers to check a box to verify that they are 18 or older. There was no further age verification past that step. No actual identification proof is asked for to put the items in your cart and checkout.

Dwivedi says this is disturbing and should be illegal.

"Personally, I think these products should be (illegal), but as you know it's a huge industry," Dwivedi said. "Just like in the last decades when cigarette companies were coming out with all kinds of marketing, messaging and tools targeting the young population, I am afraid that type of situation is going to arise."

An FDA official says they have taken action to prevent this. A statement from a spokesperson said, "From April 2018 through April 2019, the FDA issued more than 3,950 warning letters and more than 665 civil money penalties to brick-and-mortar and online retailers for illegal sales to minors."

KCRG also reached out to those online companies about their policies and what they are planning to do, if anything, to prevent underage sales. None have responded so far.