On July 5 we will celebrate Wisconsin’s six-year anniversary since the statewide smoking ban went into effect. This public policy initiative has had such a positive effect on people’s health. Air quality in restaurants and bars has shown an extraordinary improvement after this law began. Healthy People 2020 provides a set of national goals for improving the health of all Americans, locally collaborated with the HSC 2020 Substance Abuse/Mental Health Committee to motivate actions at the local level within the community. Tobacco use is a healthrisk behavior that is a leading cause of death and disease among Wisconsin youth and adults. One of our goals is to provide information and education on current trends including the health risks of smokeless or other tobacco products. Tobacco use is still the single most preventable cause of disease, disability and death in the U.S.
So what is new in tobacco prevention? E-cigarettes are now the most popular tobacco product for youth. According to the National 2015 Monitoring the Future study, 16 percent of 12th grade students reported using e-cigarettes in the past month. Other ways to attract young people include the use of candy flavorings — like grape and chocolate — and bright colors to make the products appealing. In fact, the 2015 Monitoring the Future study also reports more than one third of US kids tried e-cigarettes because they taste good. By providing youth and families with health information to increase their knowledge of tobacco use prevention we can lay an early foundation for a smoke-free life. This may prevent children from becoming the next generation of victims.
We attempt to provide this education at local points of sale for tobacco products, in order to prevent retailers from selling to youth. This is done by conducting visits to local retail stores through the WI WINS program. We conduct compliance checks to discover where youth are exposed to tobacco products and which stores comply with checking IDs to limit access of products to minors. Tobacco companies advertise directly to youth and are able to recruit 3,200 new youth younger than 18 every day to start smoking or use other products.
This celebration of our success for the Smoke Free Air Law encourages us to continue our progress, but there is still work to be done. Tobacco prevention must remain a public health priority for Wisconsin.
Thank you for your help in keeping Wisconsin smoke free. Please continue to support stop smoking programs to encourage smokers to kick the habit. The Wisconsin Quit Line offers support to smokers who want to quit. Contact them at 1-800-QUITNOW. Other resources are available on healthy sheboygancounty.org or on the Healthy Sheboygan County Facebook page. Become a part of the solution.
Let’s call for a new kind of independence — independence from tobacco.
Liz Abler, RN, works for the Sheboygan County Health and Human Services Division of Public Health.