Local News

UNC Study: Internet Provides Easy Access For Underage Tobacco Sales

Posted December 11, 2001

— North Carolina has cracked down on the sale of tobacco to minors. However, a

new study

out of UNC-Chapel Hill found that teens are finding a way around the identification checks at stores by going online to buy cigarettes.

The study found that cigarette vendors are easy to locate online. Vendors offer teens their favorite brands and some sites set up monthly shipments of cigarettes.

Kurt Ribisl, an assistant professor at the

UNC School of Public Health

, conducted a survey of 88 Web sites that sell cigarettes.

The study found that most of the sites offer lower prices and many offer cigarettes tax-free.

Ribisl said that he is troubled by how easy it is for children to order cigarettes online.

"It appears that the Web sites take fairly sloppy precautions to avoid selling cigarettes to minors. The prevailing standard when you go to buy cigarettes at a store, if you appear under 26, they ask you for a photo age ID. On the Internet, they check a box if you are 18 or not. That's all that's needed," he said.

The study found that younger adolescents may turn to the Internet to buy cigarettes since they can more easily hide the fact that they are underage.

"One in three of our young people are smoking under age 18. Most of them initiate at age 12, yet it is illegal to sell to them under 18. The Internet is opening a door inviting abuse of the law," said Debra Bryan of the American Lung Association.

Congress may help close the door. Legislation filed on Monday, called the Tobacco-Free Internet for Kids, would prohibit the sale of tobacco products through the Internet to people under age 18.

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