IntroductionRecent reports of lung injury associated with Electronic Nicotine Delivery System (ENDS) products precipitated by increasing vaping prevalence and interest in flavors among adolescents has led to policies that restrict the sale, distribution, and accessibility of ENDS products. This study assessed compliance of online ENDS vendors to the Massachusetts temporary sales ban.
MethodsThe study involved structured web surveillance for online ENDS vendors using keyword searches on Google search engine (October to November 2019.) Once vendors were identified, we conducted simulated online purchases, defined as placing an order for an ENDS product by putting it in the website shopping cart without finalizing payment. Simulated purchases and content analysis of websites was conducted to determine compliance characteristics. Fisher's exact test was used to identify associations between compliance and website characteristics such as location and age verification requirements.
ResultsSimulated online purchases from 50 identified ENDS vendors yielded 72% (n=36) stores that were non-compliant and allowed placement of ENDS product orders, without restrictions, to a Massachusetts address. The remaining 14 websites had processes in place to prevent orders from buyers located in Massachusetts. Other characteristics of interest, including use of age verification, location data, and web registrar/registrant data were collected and reported.
ConclusionsThe September 2019 Massachusetts executive order was a comprehensive ban on selling ENDS products both online and offline. However, our study found that close to three-fourths of the vendors appeared to be non-compliant, indicating that implementation and enforcement are ongoing challenges for future tobacco control efforts on the internet. Policymaking needs to be specifically tailored to address the unique challenges of online environments, particularly in the context of identifying non-compliant sites, ensuring age verification, and addressing non-US sellers.