If you live in a major city, you’ve assuredly seen clouds of smoke emanating from teenagers and young adults wielding their favorite vape pens. Convenience and the potent nicotine punch packed into e-cigarettes, oil pens, and more have made vaping nearly ubiquitous among America’s youth.
The vape market’s emergence in the U.S. was generally regarded as a positive one: vapes provided a less harmful alternative to traditional cigarettes, which account for roughly one in five deaths in America annually. But soon after Juul, the leading e-cigarette brand, saw its market value soar to $38 billion, concurrent with a rise in underage vaping, questions about the long-term impact of vaping came into focus.
Concern mounted as a number of fringe cases attributed severe lung illnesses to the use of more obscure, off-label vape products containing additives like Vitamin E acetate. More than 2,500 severe lung cases were reported by November 2019, and the bulk of those problems involved teenagers.
Buckling Down on Online Vaping Purchases
Like the early days of cigarettes, we just don’t understand the long-term consequences of dragging a vape pen multiple times per day. As a result, public health officials, teachers, and parents alike have come together to protect teenagers that are directly exposed to the adverse effects of vaping.
But that’s easier said than done.
Vape devices can be purchased at virtually any convenience store, smoke shop, and even some grocery stores. The legal age to purchase tobacco products is now 21 (Federally) in America. However, most cashiers feign ignorance if a 16-year old strolls into a convenience store to buy a Juul kit. Not to mention how easy it is to get an older brother or sister to purchase the pods.
The impact of raising the tobacco age will only begin to unfold over the next several years.
The underage problem is much worse online too. A cursory review of some of the leading e-cigarette stores reveals a complete lack of age verification, or the bare minimum. Johnny, a Sophomore in high school, can use a family credit card to choose from a buffet of products without being stifled in his pursuit for a nicotine buzz.
Enter AgeChecker — the secure age verification tool for e-commerce stores.
AgeChecker is compatible with virtually all of the major e-commerce platforms like Magento, Shopify, and WooCommerce via its API. The software works by cross-referencing customer data entered at checkout against public records (e.g., credit information). A match rate exceeding 90% allows most customers to be verified instantly.
“If we determine that the information submitted is fraudulent or it was not found in our databases, we will ask the customer to submit a photo ID,” details AgeChecker’s website.
Photo ID submissions are only required in rare circumstances, and even then a manual verification process has eligible customers on their way in under a minute — while those who fail verification or do not complete the process are unable to check out.
For e-commerce stores and e-cigarette brands, that’s a net positive as both the UX of the customer is not hindered and they are safe from a government compliance perspective.
Government Focus & Compliance
It’s no secret that the FDA has put the relatively nascent vape industry under the regulatory microscope.
The agency famously cracked down on underage sales in 2018 which, admittedly, has worked to a certain extent. But the crackdowns have had some concerning second-order effects.
Markets for off-label vaping products have skyrocketed, augmenting health problems as vape products with untraditional constituents ranging from Vitamin E acetate to Coconut Oil become more accessible.
These pens and oil components are found in secondary markets parading around on e-commerce stores with less volume and oversight — and are not the direct brand delivering products to consumers.
This is precisely where AgeChecker believes they can make an impact.
Outright government prohibition doesn’t have a successful history in the U.S. (e.g., alcohol) so more nuanced solutions like AgeChecker might be parents’ best weapon. Secondary markets, under increasing pressure to comply with federal regulations, cannot sustain the culpability of selling illicit products to teenagers if AgeChecker becomes a standard.
AgeChecker, which at least thwarts more ignorant teenagers from buying potentially dangerous products, is a marked answer to a burgeoning public issue. Adults that pass the verification process will still (unfortunately) be subject to some potentially contaminated vaping oils, but at least they are more discerning than Johnny the high school Sophomore that vapes to look cool.
Fake e-cigs and cannabis oil pens are also driving concerns that teenagers will revert to traditional cigarettes out of health fears going viral on social media.
Teenagers will continue to rebel; it’s just a matter of curtailing access to dangerous products.
Ironically, cartons of cigarettes are replacing e-cig products in grocery stores– which has its own implications for a magnitude of health problems around the globe.
There are no easy answers.
Fortunately, with a tempered approach taken by giant brands like Juul, who is under the microscope of public outrage, paired with tools like AgeChecker, parents can have some healthy reassurances in the lucrative vaping market.
The long-term effects of vaping are still yet to be realized, but the least we can do is try to prevent another tobacco epidemic among America’s youth, and AgeChecker believes they can make a significant impact.