Most tobacco users get started before they even turn 18, which is why it’s so important to prevent tobacco sales to minors. Wisconsin Wins helps responsible retailers follow the law, avoid costly fines and keep tobacco out of kids’ hands — including new, candy flavored tobacco products that appeal to youth.
More Wisconsin kids are being sold tobacco products illegally, according to new data from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services. The data comes from the 2016 Synar survey, which examines the number of retailers that sell tobacco to minors. The 2016 rate of 7.2 percent is up from 6.8 percent in 2015 and 6.4 percent in 2014. While Wisconsin remains below the national average of 10 percent, local health advocates say there’s reason for concern. The fact is that a number of tobacco products being sold in stores are highly appealing to youth,” said Liz Abler, RN with Sheboygan County Division of Public Health. “Preventing these sales is a big piece of the puzzle when it comes to protecting kids and improving the health of Sheboygan County.” One major difference between the 2016 Synar survey and previous years is that it includes all tobacco products instead of only cigarettes. The timing for the change is good, according to representatives at re:TH!NK, the Lakeshore Tobacco Prevention Network serving Sheboygan and Manitowoc counties.
“The days where we could only look at the underage sale of cigarettes are long gone,” said Abler. “More and more youth are turning to e-cigarettes and other flavored tobacco products, so it’s important that surveys like this one look at the whole tobacco picture.”
Strides to improve the rate of sales to minors continue among retailers in Sheboygan County. In 2013, the rate of sale to minors was 18.4 percent. In 2015, the rate of sales dropped to 8.2 percent, still higher than the state average.
Local health advocates say education is key in driving down the rate of sales. To achieve that end, the statewide Wisconsin Wins program provides free retailer training through www.smokecheck.org. Employees need to know how to read the WI State ID, to verify every customer’s age before making a tobacco sale because every sale we stop helps create a healthier Sheboygan County.
Cath Tease is the Grant Coordinator for re:TH!NK, the Lakeshore Tobacco Prevention Network.