Objectives: To examine the ease with which underage smokers can purchase cigarettes online using money orders and to evaluate the effectiveness of internet filtering programs in blocking access to internet cigarette vendors (ICVs).
Design: Four young people purchased 32 money orders using 32 different names to buy one carton of cigarettes for each named individual. Each money order was subsequently mailed to a different ICV in the USA. No age related information accompanied these online orders. Two internet filtering programs ("Bess" and filtertobacco.org) were tested for their relative efficacy in blocking access to ICV sites.
Results: Of the 32 orders placed, four orders never reached the intended ICV. Of the remaining 28 orders, 20 (71%) were filled despite a lack of age verification. Only four (14%) of the orders received were rejected because they lacked proof of age. "Bess" blocked access to 84% and filtertobacco.org to 94% of the ICV sites.
Conclusions: Although underage smokers can easily purchase cigarettes online using money orders, access to these sites can be largely blocked if appropriate filtering devices are installed.