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Web sites selling cigarettes: how many are there in the USA and what are their sales practices?
  1. Kurt M Ribisl*,
  2. Annice E Kim,
  3. Rebecca S Williams
  1. Department of Health Behavior and Health Education, University of North Carolina School of Public Health, Chapel Hill, and the *Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, UNC School of Medicine, North Carolina, USA
  1. Kurt M Ribisl PhD, UNC School of Public Health, Department of Health Behavior and Health Education, Campus Box 7440, Chapel Hill, NC 27599, USAkurt_ribisl{at}


OBJECTIVES To estimate the number and geographic location of web sites selling cigarettes in the USA, and to examine their sales and marketing practices.

METHODS Comprehensive searches were conducted using four keyword terms and five popular internet search engines, supplemented by sites identified in a news article. Over 1800 sites were examined to identify 88 internet cigarette vendors.

MEASURES Trained raters examined the content of each site using a standardised coding instrument to assess geographic location, presence of warnings, products sold, and promotional strategies.


RESULTS Internet cigarette vendors were located in 23 states. Nearly half (n = 43) were located in New York state, and many were in tobacco producing states with low cigarette excise taxes. Indian reservations housed 49 of the 88 sites. Only 28.4% of sites featured the US Surgeon General's health warnings and 81.8% featured minimum age of sale warnings. Nearly all sites (96.6%) sold premium or value brand cigarettes, 21.6% sold duty-free Marlboros, and 8.0% sold bidis. Approximately one third featured special promotional programmes.

CONCLUSIONS Internet cigarette vendors present new regulatory and enforcement challenges for tobacco control advocates because of the difficulty in regulating internet content and because many vendors are on Indian reservations.

  • youth access
  • internet
  • web sites
  • policy

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