Each year, the Federal Synar Report details the trends in underage tobacco sales and the compliance of tobacco retailers across the United States. According to the most recent report from 2018, tobacco sales to minors in Wisconsin fell from 7.1 percent in 2017 to 5.8 percent in 2018. Vernon County also saw a slight increase during this time. Twenty-two retailer checks were done with only one retailer that sold tobacco to minors in 2018. In 2017, 18 retailer checks were done with zero sales of tobacco products to minors.
“We have seen great strides for reducing the number of minors that are being sold tobacco products in Vernon County,” said Betty Nigh, RN BSN from the Vernon County Health Department. “With the popularity of e-cigarettes and other flavored tobacco products that may appeal to a youth population, we need to continue our education efforts with convenience store, restaurant, bar, and grocery store employees to decrease the availability of tobacco products to minors.” These efforts are especially critical as new and emerging e-cigarette products resemble thumb drives, markers, or mp3 players.
The Wisconsin Wins (WI Wins) program works to prevent tobacco use among youth through tobacco retailer compliance checks. WI Wins uses positive reinforcement by recognizing retailers who don’t sell to minors. Local clerks are given the task of correctly identifying minors as well as knowing which products in their stores are considered tobacco products. This can be a hard task when faced with busy stores and ever-evolving tobacco products.
To provide more education to their staff, tobacco retailers can provide their employees with free online training through WITobaccoCheck.org. This website provides tips for avoiding underage sales and current information about Wisconsin tobacco sales law. As tobacco products are continually being changed, retailers can also direct their employees to learn about new products at TobaccoIsChanging.com.
The 7 C’s Health Initiative appreciates Vernon County retailers for the great work on reducing tobacco access to minors. By keeping tobacco out of the hands of youth, everyone wins. For more on local tobacco prevention and control efforts, visit the 7 C’s website at www.7cshealthinitiative.com.