Tobacco Sales to Minors in Dane County Remain High

February 24, 2014

Enforcement and Education are Keys to Progress

How many times have you seen the sign in convenience stores declaring that “we check IDs”?   Those ID checks are designed to make sure that those under 18 cannot simply walk up to the counter and buy cigarettes or any other tobacco product.  
 
The only problem is how often those legal requirements are ignored by the employees staffing the store.   Public Health-Madison and Dane County has been actively attempting to support the enforcement of these rules for over 11 years under the Wisconsin WINS program.   The program consists of training 16 and 17 year old students to enter a business and attempt to purchase tobacco.  If they are successful, tickets are immediately issued to the employee and to the establishment by a public health staffer. 
 
In 2013, 313 tobacco vendors in Dane County and Madison were checked using these young people.   Out of these 313 attempts to buy tobacco, 28 vendors wound up making sales to minors.  This represented a 9% rate of violations county- wide.   While this number represents a 4% decline over 2012, the “progress” is not significant enough to celebrate.
 

“These results show there is still work to be done, since the illegal sales rate to minors continues to be significant,” said Lyle Burmeister, Columbia and Dane County WI WINS Coordinator.

 

 “While we are pleased with the efforts that many retailers take to help reduce youth access, more needs to be done to lower the rates of sales of tobacco products to minors.” 

Surveys are showing that 47,000 Wisconsin high school students currently use tobacco and we know that nationally, more that 80% of all smokers start before the age of 18.

 Burmeister points out that “the Wisconsin WINS Program is an evidence-based tobacco control program sponsored by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services and it is on the front line of keeping tobacco out of the hands of under-aged youth.”  He adds that “we always consider the retailers as key partners in this endeavor.”
 

Many clerks do check the ID’s as required, but the variety of licenses and IDs out there can be confusing. 

“Our big challenge is to help educate retailers and clerks, rather than coming into their stores to try to entrap or harass them.” 

The tobacco industry has made this work even more challenging with the introduction of a variety of non-cigarette tobacco products that are packaged to look like candy and come in flavors that are very attractive to young people.   PHMDC produced an educational video on this subject called Sweet Talk: Big Tobacco´s Kid-Friendly Campaign.  Click on title to view it. 
 
Click on this link for more details about the Wisconsin WINS program.
 
Click here for information about free training, which is funded by Wisconsin’s Tobacco Prevention and Control Program. State law requires that all retailers train their employees in the process and have a certificate in the employee’s file stating that they have completed mandatory tobacco training.
 
Click here to see a copy of the Madison-Dane County 2013 Tobacco Vendor Compliance Report or see the attachment to this release.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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