The E-Cigarette industry has recently come under fire for the potential sale of its product to minors. This scrutiny stems from what some say is the “misleading marketing” of candy-flavored electronic cigarettes. Opponents of the smoke-free concept are concerned about the sale of e-cigarettes to underage consumers and the irresponsible marketing towards the non-smoking public.
Currently, online retailers are trusted to refuse sales to minors. But the question remains – how much accountability should these companies have when verifying the age of its customers – especially when the marketing is so overtly underage?
Could electronic cigarettes, which are designed to give smokers an alternative, actually create new smokers? While many in the industry who sell flavors such as watermelon, strawberry, and other fruit flavors hope the appeal brings in new customers – current smokers or not – the electronic cigarette retail giant, Green Nicotine, hopes that answer is an overwhelming no.
Sean Schoepflin, CEO of Green Nicotine said, “Clearly, these flavors spark the interest of a younger generation, quite possibly, a younger generation that may have never used traditional tobacco in the first place.” Believe it or not, the only measures many E-cig companies use to verify age online, is by just asking. He goes on to say, “By simply requiring a customer to verify their age through a drop-down menu in a shopping cart, a retailer is putting the entire onus on the customer – but Green nicotine is different.”
Starting in April, Green Nicotine will be implementing a new campaign it calls “The 21 and Older Shipment Verification Requirement.” Moving forward, the online sale of any products which fall under its verification requirement will not be delivered without a photo ID present by the receiver. A valid ID and signature is required of a person 21 years of age or older.
Green Nicotine will not release the package under any circumstances to anyone not meeting these requirements. This program is unique to electronic cigarette industry and will require the signature of not just someone who is 18, but rather 21, prior to the release of the package. This campaign is the first of its kind in the electronic cigarette market and is Schoepflin’s most proactive campaign to date.
Green Nicotine realizes that it’s also no secret that the illegal sale of traditional tobacco products to minors is a nation-wide epidemic. Recently, the Attorney’s General in states like Arizona and New York conducted a series of sting operations targeting retailers who fail to properly ID traditional tobacco purchases.
According to one local news report, evidence is mounting that the problem is not as isolated as simply failing to ID the purchaser – its failing to correctly verify the age. “These days,” states an undercover agent who was a part of the sting, “many tobacco retailers use ID readers. They slide your driver’s license or ID through; it reads the strip on the back and automatically tells the clerk if you’re old enough to buy.” This method is the only way retailers can be certain that the customer is of legal age. As the report points out, a number of retailers who were sited actually asked for identification, but still sold to the customer.
Schoepflin says, “Obviously, this negligent approach by retailers is similar to what is happening with the online sales of electronic cigarettes. There’s a clear failure on the part of the company when minors are only required to perform simple math, in order to purchase electronic cigarettes.” The campaign is the company’s way of re-affirming its commitment to the prevention of electronic cigarettes being sold to minors.
As an industry leader, Green Nicotine has never offered “fruit or candy-flavored” e-cigarettes. Schoepflin feels, “Anything that tastes like a fresh banana is sure to turn a few kids on.” His company sticks to only traditional flavors.
He believes serious smokers who are looking for an alternative are not looking for a basket of fruit. He says, “Of course I could increase sales if I offered fruit flavors, but ultimately I’d defeat the reason behind why this company came to be. Kids would pick them up, non-smokers would be intrigued…I would be hurting more than I would be helping.”
A company that is willing to sacrifice profit for the greater good? “Yes,” says Schoepflin. “I intend to eliminate any opportunity for a minor to get their hands on Green Nicotine and in turn, I look toward a future where all E-Cigarettes are ethically marketed across the industry.
It’s a refreshing twist in an otherwise muddied industry. “These concerns are of great importance, my company intends on setting higher standards in an industry that is very loosely regulated.” When comparing Green Nicotine to its competitors, it’s not hard to realize what makes Schoepflin’s company different. Its E-cigarettes look better, feel better, and taste better. However, that’s not what sets the company apart from others. Green Nicotine’s secret ingredient is its clear vision of changing the world one smoker at a time -without creating new ones.