Nearly half of tobacco and vape shops failed to check identification when underage decoys attempted to purchase vape products, according to a California-based study.
To combat the significant increase in vaping among high school students from 2017 to 2018, the FDA announced its intention to limit sales of flavored tobacco products, excluding menthol, to age-restricted locations, such as tobacco and vape shops.
“However, the 2017 California tobacco purchase survey reported that tobacco and vape shops had the highest rate of underage sales compared with other types of tobacco retailers,” April Roeseler, BSN, MSPH, from the California Tobacco Control Program, California Department of Public Health, Sacramento, and colleagues wrote in a research letter published in JAMA Pediatrics. “We investigated whether disparate violations persisted in 2018 and whether the FDA’s intention to limit the sale of flavored tobacco products to age-restricted locations is adequate.”
From March to June 2018, the researchers randomly assigned decoys aged 18 to 19 years to purchase cigarettes (n = 1,123) or vape products, such as e-cigarettes and e-liquids (n = 498), as the FDA requires retailers to check identification for all people younger than 27 years. The decoys did not carry ID and were truthful about their age. A trained chaperone observed whether the retailer requested ID and if a sale occurred.
Despite the FDA’s regulation, 49.8% of tobacco and vape shops did not check ID for underage decoys when they attempted to purchase vape products. This percentage, the researchers noted, was higher when compared with other types of retailers (P < .05). Results also showed that 44.7% of tobacco and vape shops sold vape products to underage decoys at a higher rate than other retailers (P < .05), and vape products accounted for more overall sales violations when compared with cigarettes (P < .05).
The researchers used data from the 2018 sample (n = 1,746) of the California Tobacco Control Program’s Young Adult Tobacco Purchase Survey drawn from the statewide tobacco retail license list. They defined tobacco and vape shops as those that primarily sell tobacco products.
These data, the researchers noted, are not unique to California, with other states, such as North Carolina and Oklahoma, reporting underage sales rates of 20% or higher in tobacco and vape shops in 2019.
“Presumably tobacco and vape shops would be the most compliant with age-of-sale laws, particularly in states where license suspension or revocation would jeopardize the business. However, these results suggest that the FDA’s proposal to relegate sales of flavored tobacco products to adult-only facilities are not likely to be effective without age verification requirements and increases in the number and frequency of compliance checks that the FDA conducts,” Roeseler and colleagues wrote. – by Melissa Foster
Disclosures: One of the authors reports she received grants from the National Cancer Institute. All other authors report no relevant financial disclosures.