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Greetings,


I recently penned a commentary for Tobacco Control, inspired by the insightful work of the Truth Initiative that also appeared in the Journal. Their thoughtful research into tobacco e-commerce practices that is complimentary our lab has shone a spotlight on the urgent need for regulatory reform by pointing out problems with age-restrictions and troubling marketing tactics on TikTok.

 

The world of online tobacco sales, now a staggering $16.7 billion segment in just the US in 2023, has exposed stark gaps in the enforcement of sales and marketing regulations. With the rapid shift to online platforms, tobacco retailers may exploit these gaps to sidestep policies, particularly flavor sales restrictions, casting risks for public health and age-appropriate sales.

 

The commentary calls for a concerted push toward a regulatory environment with the need to reform ambiguous legalities and lax age verifications. I encourage you to read our commentary, if you would like a better understanding of the state of this market at the start of 2024.

 

Thank you for engaging with our work and for your commitment to this important issue!

 

Best regards,

Eric Leas

Director of The Tobacco E-Commerce Lab

Reporting in the journal Tobacco Control on Nov. 7, 2023, our lab assessed the impact of California's statewide flavor restriction on online shopping behavior among consumers. Comparing observed rates of shopping queries with expected rates, we discovered that shopping queries were 194 percent higher than expected for cigarettes and 162 percent higher than expected for vape products and these increases persisted for weeks after the ban was enacted.

A review of the search results also indicated how easy it was to access products with about 7 percent of websites that came up during searches for cigarettes offering menthol cigarettes and about 40 percent of websites that came up during searches for vaping products offering flavored vaping products


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