Local Underage Tobacco Sales Decrease

Monday, April 4, 2011 - 6:19am

Fourth Year of Decline Reported for Madison & Dane County

Public Health Madison and Dane County (PHMDC) is reporting that the number of underage tobacco sales has dropped for the fourth year in a row. In 2010, the overall compliance rate throughout Madison and Dane County was 94 percent. PHMDC conducted 280 tobacco compliance checks and found that underage customers were able to successfully purchase tobacco products only 6 percent of the time.

Compliance checks are done by trained teams of minors ages 15 to 17 and PHMDC staff. Team members attempt to purchase tobacco products from licensed vendors. Store employees are required to request and check the identification of young people attempting to purchase tobacco products. When a retail clerk does not follow the law and sells tobacco to an underage youth, citations are issued in accordance with Wisconsin statutes.

The Wisconsin WINS-the Wisconsin tobacco prevention and control program-was created in 2002 to comply with federal mandates designed to reduce the number of tobacco sales to minors. When the program began in 2002, 33 percent of all tobacco sales in Wisconsin were to minors.

Studies show that 80 percent of all smokers start smoking before age 18. According to Lyle Burmeister, the Tobacco Control Youth Coordinator, retail clerks play a key role and "are the first line of enforcement in preventing youth access to tobacco products." When minors have a harder time gaining access to tobacco, they are less likely to become lifetime smokers. Burmeister added, "We know that tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death in the US. We must continue education and enforcement to keep Wisconsin youth from becoming replacements for the 1,200 people in the US who die every day due to the health effects of tobacco."

Tobacco companies spend $15 billion per year to market their products nationwide. In Wisconsin alone, they spend $274 million per year. Much of this advertising targets youth, as evidenced by the multitude of new, candy-flavored tobacco products. In 2011, Wisconsin will receive $840 million from the 1998 tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes. Less than one percent of that amount will go to tobacco prevention programs.

For more information on tobacco control efforts, check the PHMDC website at

For information on the Wisconsin WINS program, see




  • Lyle Burmeister(608) 242-6442
  • Jeff Golden(608) 243-0302