Internet savvy teenagers are increasingly turning to the Internet to buy their cigarettes. It makes sense – there are few if any laws regulating the sale of tobacco to minors across the Internet, and due to the interstate nature of such transactions, local state laws are ill-equipped to deal with such sales. Plus, how cool is it for these teens that instead of having to take their fake i.d. down to the local Jiffy Mart, they can have their cigarettes delivered right to their door by the nice man in the brown truck?
According to Greg Sled, with Arkansas Tobacco Control, “This is a problem facing all states in the nation, and something is going to have to be done at the federal level to have any type of impact.”
Tommy (not his real name) is a 16-year old who works with the Arkansa Tobacco Control office to help bust stores which sell tobacco to underaged minors. He also tested buying cigarettes online, finding no barriers whatsoever. Explained Tommy, “It’s not that hard buying cigarette’s on the internet. All a teen needs is a checking account. You don’t have to be 18 to have a check, to have a checking account.?
Tommy easily found websites whose only checkpoint was asking his age (he lied), and sites which didn’t even make a pretense of asking his age. He just typed in his order, clicked “submit”, and two weeks later that nice man with the brown truck arrived and left Tommy’s cigarettes on his doorstep.
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And of course there is a huge cost-savings advantage in addition to the lack of age verification. A single pack of cigarettes these days can cost in excess of $5.00 USD; in fact we’ve been told that an entire carton, usually less expensive per pack than buying cigarettes pack at at time, will run you about $53.00 USD in New York City.
My gosh, smoking is now more expensive than a 2-latte-a-day habit!
On the Internet, however, you can buy a carton of cigarettes for around $30.00, and some sites advertise them for as low as $12.40 a carton. Some sites get away with this because they don’t have to charge taxes (state and federal taxes on cigarettes are quite high), others may do so based on of the questionable nature of their supply chain, if you know what we mean. Many sites which sell cigarettes completely tax-free are able to do so because they are headquartered in a Sovereign Native American Territory, which are free from U.S. tax impositions.
The bottom line is that the Internet is a cheap, effective, and safe way for teenagers to purchase tobacco products which are, unfortunately, not safe at all.
Perhaps this is the upside to being Internet illiterate?
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