Internet Poses New Problems for Tobacco Control
LONDON (Reuters) - Sales of cigarettes on the Internet are expected to soar in the coming decade and will pose new problems for tobacco controls to curtail underage smoking, researchers said on Monday.
Industry experts predict one fifth of the $40 billion in annual U.S. cigarette sales will take place over the worldwide web in 10 years time.
``If deliberate and concerted action is not taken, tobacco commerce on the Internet could prove to be a significant threat to comprehensive tobacco control,'' said Kurt Ribisl of the North Carolina School of Public Health.
In one of the first published studies into web sites which sell cigarettes, Ribisl and his colleagues found 88 Internet cigarette sellers in 23 states in the United States.
Nearly half were on the east coast in New York State and 49 of the total were on Indian reservations, which Ribisl said could compound problems for regulators because they are considered sovereign territory.
Some of the web sites sold duty-free cigarettes and many offered special promotions.
``The emergence of Internet cigarette vendors presents many challenges for tobacco control advocates,'' Ribisl said in the study in the journal Tobacco Control.
``State and federal legislation and enforcement will probably be needed to ensure that appropriate excise taxes are paid on cigarettes, that gray market cigarettes are not sold online, and that youth access to tobacco products is restricted,'' he added.
In a commentary on the research, Canadian scientists said international tobacco control agreements and national and state regulation may be needed to meet the threat the Internet posed for tobacco control.
``If deliberate and concerted action is not taken, tobacco commerce on the Internet could prove to be a significant threat to comprehensive tobacco control,'' said Joanna Cohen of the University of Toronto.