Context: There is growing concern that the Internet might become a source of tobacco products for minors. Although researchers have studied tobacco sales to minors at retail outlets for more than a decade, there are no published studies of tobacco sales to minors via the Internet.
Objective: To determine the proportion of Internet cigarette vendors that will sell cigarettes to minors.
Design, setting, and participants: Cross-sectional study conducted in April-July 2001. Under adult supervision, 4 adolescents aged 11 to 15 years attempted to purchase cigarettes via 55 Internet cigarette vendors located in 12 states. These minors made a total of 83 purchase attempts, paying by credit card (n = 47) and by money order (n = 36).
Main outcome measure: Proportion of Internet cigarette vendors that sold cigarettes to minors.
Results: Minors successfully received cigarettes for 93.6% of credit card purchase attempts and for 88.9% of money order purchase attempts. Age was never verified for any of these deliveries. Internet vendors sent a total of 1650 packs of cigarettes to the underage adolescents in this study.
Conclusion: Minors appear to have easy access to cigarettes via the Internet because many Internet vendors have weak or nonexistent age verification procedures.