Internet Cigarette Vendor Compliance with Credit Card Payment and Shipping Bans

Online cigarette vendors have long been known to violate taxation and youth access laws. This led to a pair of voluntary agreements in 2005 that limit how people can purchase and receive cigarettes from online vendors. One agreement bans the processing of credit card payments for tobacco purchased online. The other bans the delivery of cigarettes to consumers via United Parcel Service, Federal Express, and DHL.

Despite these bans, loopholes remain and consumers are still able to buy cigarettes online.


Key Findings

In this study, an adult buyer attempted to buy cigarettes from the 97 most popular Internet cigarette vendors using banned payment and shipping methods. When banned methods were unavailable, purchases were attempted with alternate methods, such as checks and U.S. Postal Service.

  • Out of 100 purchase attempts, 83 cigarette orders were successfully delivered to the purchaser.
  • Out of 83 successful purchases, 23 were paid for using (banned) credit cards and 60 were paid for with checks.
  • Out of 83 successful purchases, four were delivered using banned shippers and 79 were delivered through the U.S. Postal Service.

This study shows that better enforcement is needed to ensure compliance with payment and shipping bans and that loopholes continue to allow the buying and selling of cigarettes online.

A 2009 Act called the Prevent All Cigarette Trafficking Act closed the USPS loophole by making cigarettes nonmailable material; future research should evaluate vendors’ compliance with this new restriction.

Citation: Williams RS, Ribsl KM. Internet Cigarette Vendor Compliance with Credit Card Payment and Shipping Bans. Nicotine Tob Res. 2014;16(2):243-246. doi: 10.1093/ntr/ntt159.

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