Children Find Way To Light Up Online
Texas law restricts youth access to tobacco, making it a crime to sell, buy and possess tobacco products. But there is no law about using the Internet to make a purchase.
KSAT 12 On Your Side's Marilyn Moritz gave Anthony Hidalgo, 10, a credit card and permission to try to buy cigarettes over the Internet.
American Cancer Society spokeswoman Cindy Strzelecki said that peer pressure is the number one reason why kids light up.
"Statistics show that every day, 3,000 kids start to smoke, and of those, one-third will die of tobacco-related illness," Strzelecki said.
Anthony surfed the Web and saw the following alerts:
"Warning! Must be 18 to order."
"Please be 18-plus. We care about the law."
"Click here only if you are 18."
Anthony's mother, Kathy Hidalgo, said that the warnings are not enough.
"You don't know who's on the other side," she said.
Anthony fills in the blanks and fibs about his age when asked. Days later, the products arrive.
Only the Web site Light Up For Less detected a problem and canceled.
Some tobacco Web sites try to make it more difficult for a kid to buy.
At classacigarettes.com, all first orders require driver's license numbers. Anthony's order was filled without a license, but someone did call to ask how old he was.
Moritz reported that other Web sites were intimidating, warning users that credit card fraud would be prosecuted and requiring adult signatures at delivery.
But cigarettes showed up on the doorstep anyway.
Experts say cyber smokes are difficult to police and advise parents to be involved.
The online retailers, who filled our orders, said that they do the best they can to screen for kids.
To protect Anthony, when he placed his orders, an adult pushed the final send button so he did not break any law.