As the Food and Drug Administration proposes a national ban on e-cigarette sales to minors, White Cloud is proud to say that we have been leading the crusade to keep e-cigs out of the hands of youth for years. We take our commitment to only market to adults very seriously, which is why we have implemented strict age verification policies for our online store.
E-Cig Age Restriction Laws in the U.S.
As of the middle of 2015, the U.S. has no federal law prohibiting sales of e-cigs to minors, but 44 states have already passed age restriction legislation. Although some have existed since 2010, state e-cig laws greatly vary in language and enforcement. For example, a study from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill found that 90 percent of e-cig vendors in NC are ignoring age verification requirements. Online e-cig vendors can easily get away with this, and many do; however, this will likely not be the case for long. The FDA has proposed subjecting e-cigs to the same regulations as tobacco products, which include prohibition of sales to individuals under 18 years of age.
White Cloud’s Age Verification History
White Cloud has been a forerunner in preventing the sales of e-cigs to minors long before it became illegal. When we first started selling e-cigs in shopping malls, all of our mall kiosks displayed a large “We Card” sign, and we have maintained a very strict policy requiring customers to present identification before making a purchase. The anonymity of the Internet presents many challenges to age verification, so in early 2014 White Cloud teamed up with experts at LexisNexis to stick with our policy of protecting minors and preventing identity fraud.
How White Cloud’s Age Verification Process Works
LexisNexis holds a database of 34 billion public records including government issued IDs. After a customer finishes placing their order, the information provided is checked against the LexisNexis system. If LexisNexis cannot confirm the customer’s age based off of records in its database, the order is flagged and an email is sent to the customer requesting proof of age. To proceed with the order, the customer must send us a photocopy of a state-issued ID or provide a previous address legally associated with their name as proof of residence. If these criteria are not met, the order is then canceled and refunded for the full amount.
How Effective is White Cloud’s Age Verification Process?
LexisNexis has processed more than 50 million age verification requests over the past decade, so its reputation is well regarded within the world of e-commerce. Since partnering with them, we are proud of our report card:
- Of all rejected orders, 13 percent owned up to being underage. One young person even called us to apologize for violating our policies!
- About 40 percent of rejected orders were due to lack of response for ID. We’ve gotten calls from parents who found out through our age verification system that their children were trying to purchase e-cigs using the parents’ identities.
- Our customer service agents aggressively follow up on suspicious orders. One young person who was denied purchase through our system informed us that they would ask their parents to buy e-cigs for them. We immediately flagged the address to make sure that didn’t happen.
- Of the 43 percent of customers who outright refused to submit ID, an alarming number informed us that they would instead purchase e-cigs at a store that didn’t ask for proof of age. This is disconcerting because it means that local laws are not being enforced, which means many minors still have access to e-cigs.
White Cloud believes that building a respectable e-cig industry means taking a stand against the sale of nicotine products to minors. The U.S. still has very lenient legislation regarding e-cigs compared to most of Europe, but stricter regulations are no doubt on the way. We hope our competition will follow our example in keeping e-cigs away from young people so we can focus on our mission of providing safe alternatives to tobacco for adults.