The discovery of several harmful chemicals in vaping oils that have caused severe lung problems prompted the Center for Disease Control (CDC) to issue a statement advising consumers to stop vaping altogether until an investigation is complete. That seems unlikely at this point, as the vaping market has ballooned in both valuations and popularity.
However, government agencies are gearing up to crack down further on the more shuttered parts of the market, particularly secondary markets for non-FDA approved Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS).
For example, the FDA recently announced an enforcement policy to stop ENDS manufacturers and distributors from selling unauthorized products, with a 30 day deadline. The move follows the passage of federal regulation raising the legal tobacco age to 21 across the United States, overriding state and local laws.
With enforcement efforts underway, including guidelines for online vape retailers, AgeChecker is poised to capture a large share of the e-commerce market.
Risking Non-Compliance Is a Tenuous Route
Federal legislation raising the age of tobacco purchase went into effect just before the start of the new decade with the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act which changed the legal tobacco purchase age from 18 to 21 across the nation.
The move is long overdue, but questions remain.
Some vaping companies have soared to VC prominence, raking in ridiculous profits despite multiple attempts by grassroots organizations to temper their sales. Companies like Juul will assuredly put up a fight to curtail any more legislation that could hurt its business model, even after acquiescing to stop selling flavored products at physical retail locations.
But the problem is more nuanced. Many e-commerce stores, whether a dropshipping operation or boutique shop, sell off-label and more obscure vaping products sourced from unverified suppliers. These outlets risk non-compliance with new FDA and federal regulations if they do not adhere to the recent spate of regulations, but it is unclear what enforcement will entail.
For example, it may be challenging for the federal government to crack down on international nicotine oil suppliers that populate low-key e-commerce websites. Throw boutique smoke shops, peppered throughout cities in the US, into the mix, and blanket enforcement could put numerous legitimate businesses in financial jeopardy because of convoluted enforcement measures.
What does appear likely to happen first though is a carefully calibrated effort to require online stores to introduce age verification procedures. Non-compliance is a tenuous route that risks bringing down the hammer of federal power.
Many (even small) e-commerce shops can simply tap AgeChecker to efficiently and affordably comply with the new status quo.
For example, AgeChecker not only stays up-to-date on all federal enforcement (e.g., FDA policy) and updates its customers via its blog, but the tool is congruent across virtually all e-commerce builds. Verification is quick, easy, does not hamper the consumer experience, and even has a fallback ID submission in the case of uncertain verification.
AgeChecker is an ideal solution for any e-commerce store, large or small, to avoid culpability in servicing underage consumers. This is especially relevant when it is clear that teenagers are getting progressively creative in their methods of purchasing tobacco e-cig products.
For example, some students at high schools wear specific clothing indicating they know someone who can legally purchase Juul pods or other vaping products. The problem has become so endemic that it’s cultivating an entire culture among Gen Z, scaring parents in the process.
Laws and regulations tend to just move formerly legal activities to illicit black markets, which was the story of marijuana for a long time before the public (and eventually, legal) perception shifted.
We may be gearing up for a similar dynamic with nicotine vaping products.
However, AgeChecker is confident that, as a plug-in solution, underage online purchases can be confined to the more obscure fashion methods (like the previously mentioned) in high school rather than next-day delivery service from an e-commerce shop.
Parent and faculty initiatives are already focusing on curtailing vaping in schools, which further limits opportunities for underage vaping when paired with AgeChecker.
The Digital Economy Requires Nuance
Will federal regulations end underage vaping? Probably not, if we’re being realistic.
Federal regulation on cigarettes never stopped teenagers from procuring them via similar methods they’re doing with e-cigs in high school now. Smoking rates have declined noticeably, but more than 400k Americans die each year because of cigarettes still.
The primary difference today than those times in the high schools of the ‘80s where Lucky Strikes and Marlboro Reds reigned is the Internet.
Teenagers are, in many cases, much more savvy with technology than their parents, faculty, and, yes, government employees. Tackling the vaping endemic and its outsized cultural effects require some more nuance than government crackdowns.
Private solutions are often highly impactful in such situations, which is precisely what AgeChecker is banking on.
AgeChecker applies to areas outside of explicitly nicotine vaping too.
According to federal data, one in six lung illnesses linked to vaping marijuana-based e-cigarettes were caused by legal purchases at dispensaries. Again, the problem of sourcing oils that go into the e-cigs is much more convoluted than at first glance. Many dispensaries will continue to source from the cheapest suppliers, not knowing the long-term consequences if a modicum of Vitamin E acetate is imbued into the cartridge it is dispensing to customers.
Such sourcing problems cannot be directly approached with regulation nor technology but can be stifled by standardization.
For example, AgeChecker can help mitigate online sales to underage buyers of both nicotine and marijuana vaping products, which has downstream consequences on demand for the products. A reduced consumer demand by making it much more challenging for youth to acquire vape products online puts downward pressure on suppliers who can’t afford to lose business from e-commerce stores, eventually causing the suppliers to shut their doors.
Only the most viable, regulated, and trusted suppliers remain, and the cycle continues to filter out the bad actor.
It may take time for this to unfold, but AgeChecker is the type of publicly cross-referenced verification mechanism that can become a useful standard across the e-commerce market. That’s a daunting threat to disingenuous suppliers and a powerful ally of both parents and the government.
Public outcry on underage vaping is evident, and AgeChecker has a huge opportunity to answer the call.
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