Cigar Purchase a Cinch for Kids on Internet
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Cyberspace cigar stores may be offering minors easy access to the trendy cigarette alternative, according to California researchers.
Combing through 141 cigar Internet sites, investigators from the University of California, San Francisco, found that most made it easy for minors to buy cigars and only five carried health warnings about their wares. The study results are published in the May issue of the American Journal of Public Health, the Journal of the American Public Health Association.
Lead author Dr. Ruth E. Malone, an assistant professor of nursing and health policy, told Reuters Health that the Internet ''potentially poses a major challenge to tobacco control efforts.'' Some Web sites she surveyed used kid-friendly sales tactics such as cartoons, music and cigar-promoting sportswear.
Despite the belief by some that cigars are ``safer'' than cigarettes because smokers do not inhale, cigar smoking--and the passive inhalation of another's smoke--is linked to several types of cancer. ``The fact remains,'' Malone noted, ``that tobacco in all forms is the number one preventable cause of disease and death.''
Since ``all marketing, including Internet marketing, creates demand,'' she added, ``I think we need to be looking more closely at this medium.''
According to the report, the cigar sites tempt minors not only with gimmicks, but also with low prices and easy access. About 69% allowed minimum purchases of less than $20, including single cigars or packs of chocolate- and vanilla-flavored stogies. One-quarter prohibited sales to minors, but there was no way to enforce the rule--10 sites required buyers to check a box to show that they were old enough to purchase tobacco. About half of the sites allowed payment forms other than credit cards.
One way to quash the potential for cyberspace cigar peddling to minors is through programs like ones that monitor traditional merchants, according to Malone. Synar enforcement programs involve ``sting operations'' to ensure that merchants are not selling tobacco products to kids, she said. Similar programs aimed at Internet merchants may push them to develop ways to screen out minors from their customer base.