Stealth Shipping: The Sneaky Way Teens Are Buying E-Cigarettes

As the youth smoking rate drops to an all-time low, the commercial tobacco industry is expanding their product offerings to attract youth — the “next generation” of customers for the tobacco industry. From flashy e-cigarettes to discreet nicotine pouches, the tobacco industry is working hard to hook every teen and kid.

The rise of vaping among teenagers has reached alarming rates in recent years, fueled in part by the accessibility of e-cigarettes through online retailers. Despite federal age restrictions, research conducted by the Truth Initiative for Tobacco Control revealed 76.3% of online vape shops allow customers to reach the checkout page without proper confirmation they are over 21. Here are a few of the concerning ways Big Tobacco is pushing underage customers to buy online.

Way Teens Are Buying E-Cigarettes through social media influence

Social Media Influence

Young people are spending more time online than ever and increasingly encountering more dangerous and harmful content. Tobacco content — including branded promotional content and misinformation — floods social media. Platforms like TikTok — used by 67% of U.S. teens — have played a significant role in the promotion of e-cigarettes to young audiences. From professional product placement to sending PR packages to popular influencers, Big Tobacco is effortlessly navigating around TikTok’s community guidelines.

Way Teens Are Buying E-Cigarettes through discrete packaging and shipping

Discreet Packaging and Shipping

One of the scariest tactics online retailers employ to attract young consumers is discreet shipping and packaging methods. “Stealth shipping” is when e-cigarette sellers hide vapes in other products such as cosmetics, hair accessories and clothing before shipment. Many TikTok accounts promote this offering by filming the packing process and assuring teens their age identification is not necessary. While some accounts have been removed by the platform, others have cropped up and face no repercussions.

The need for regulations

The Need for Regulation

Discreet shipping is just one of the latest ways retailers target kids and teens. There is a substantial number of e-cigarette products allowed on the market even before the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has a chance to conduct research and reviews. This pause for research has allowed more products to enter the scene and sales to quadruple in just one year.

Oklahoma’s youth vaping rate is a little over double the national average, according to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. Stricter regulations and enforcement measures for retailers are one of many steps toward protecting our youth and decreasing those statistics.

Youth Cessation and Prevention Services

Fortunately, youth-focused services exist to provide education and cessation and prevention services to teens and students. The TSET Healthy Youth Initiative encourages younger Oklahomans to live healthier lives through reduced tobacco use, tobacco cessation programs and improved nutrition and physical activity options. Education is our greatest defense in the fight against the tobacco industry. Staying informed on Big Tobacco’s latest schemes will strengthen the fight to protect our youth.

Published by Tobacco Stops With Me on June 28, 2024