Underage tobacco sales in Wisconsin increased from 7.2 percent in 2016 to 7.7 percent in 2017, according to the Synar Survey – which measures how frequently tobacco retailers sell to minors. The jump brings Wisconsin closer to double digit underage tobacco sales than it’s been at any time in the last decade.
“While the jump may not seem major, it’s part of a trend we’ve been noticing the last several years. The rate increase gets much larger once you compare it to five years ago, when we were at 5.5 percent,” said Cath Tease, Coordinator or re:TH!NK, the Lakeshore Tobacco Prevention Network serving Door, Kewaunee, Manitowoc and Sheboygan counties. “Locally, our coalition checks about 40 retailers with a license to sell tobacco products in Door County. We strive for 100 percent compliance, meaning no sales to minors. It’s imperative that store managers train all staff to accurately read WI state IDs. Last year two out of three retailers checked did not sell tobacco to minors. We can improve that statistic with additional training and cooperation among retailers issued a license to sell tobacco. That is our goal.”
While the state’s new underage tobacco sales rate gives coalition members pause, they’re also concerned about other tobacco trends they’re seeing in stores.
“One of our main concerns when it comes to kids and tobacco is the fact that eight out of 10 youth tobacco users say they started with a flavored product. Given that we saw flavors like popcorn, peanut butter and bubble gum at stores in our community, that’s not hard to believe,” said Tease.
The concern about candy-flavored tobacco isn’t limited to Door County and the lakeshore. Recently, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services launched a campaign called Tobacco is Changing to address the issue. Details on candy-flavored tobacco products and the state’s campaign can be found at tobaccoischanging.com.
“To help retailers avoid tobacco sales to minors, we’re providing online state-approved training at WITobaccoCheck.org – for free,” said Tease. She pointed out several features of the site, including study guides, a short quiz, and a certificate of training. Retailers can visit witobaccocheck.org to register their store for the free training. re:TH!NK coalition members are available to schedule on-site staff trainings in 2018 to reduce the number of tobacco sales to minors. To schedule training contact Tease at 920.652.0238 ext. 105.