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.