HPDP researchers will be the first to investigate if alcohol can be purchased by minors via the Internet in a new study.
Co-investigators Rebecca Williams and Kurt Ribisl have studied online cigarette sales since 1999, noting regulatory problems related to sales to minors and excise tax evasion. The results of their Internet Cigarette Vendors (ICV) study have been used to guide the creation of policies restricting sales of cigarettes online. For example, credit card companies and PayPal no longer process payments for online tobacco sales. The research also led all shipping companies such as UPS and FedEx to refuse to deliver tobacco purchased online.
In the newest phase of this research, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the research team will visit cigarette e-business websites to see how policies that have taken effect since their last study are affecting the ICV industry. Williams and Ribisl will also conduct the first study of the sales and marketing practices of websites that sell alcohol. Underage research assistants with special immunity from prosecution will analyze websites to determine their sales and marketing practices and attempt to buy alcohol online. The researchers will determine the extent to which online vendors attempt to verify customer age before selling their products. An earlier purchase survey for the ICV study showed online cigarette vendors rarely verified the age of their customers. The project will be able to conduct real-time analyses of new regulations for online vendors of restricted products as they take effect.
This phase of the study is in its early stages, but has already earned media coverage from regional newspapers, radio and television.
Date: January 14, 2009