For Immediate Release
Contact: Ryan Sheahan
Tobacco Free Columbia Dane County Coalition
A Spike in Tobacco Sales to Minors in Columbia County Raises Many Concerns
Ongoing Enforcement and Education is Key
Portage WI – January 26, 2015 –The first line of defense in preventing tobacco use and upholding the laws preventing the sale of tobacco to those under 18 are retail employees.
A key element in supporting efforts to keep kids away from tobacco products is the Wisconsin Wins program. Wins is an evidence based tobacco prevention program funded by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services. Wins is built on an effective mix of education and oversight to help prevent illegal retail tobacco sales to minors. Oversight is provided by local public health staff working with youth inspectors aged 16-17 to conduct unannounced inspections at local tobacco retail establishments.
Wins inspections consist of the youth inspectors attempting to purchase a tobacco product. If they are able to purchase a tobacco product, Tobacco Free Columbia Dane County Coalition (TFCDC) staff inform local law enforcement where the sale occurred. The local law enforcement may then issue a citation to the employee who sold the tobacco and the business owner. The Wins program also provide
s free training and educational resources that help clerks
understand and comply with the law. They also actively engage in
community outreach and education to communicate the importance of preventing
youth access to tobacco.
While Wisconsin Wins has delivered measurable results since its debut in 2001, there is still work to be done in Columbia County. In 2014, 137 tobacco retail establishments were inspected in Columbia County. Of those, 17 establishments sold a tobacco product to a minor, resulting in a non-compliance rate of 12.4%. In 2013, Columbia County had a sales rate closer to 7%.
“This is the highest non-compliance rate we have seen since 2009,” said Ryan Sheahan, the Coordinator for the Tobacco Free Columbia-Dane County Coalition. “While we are pleased with the efforts - checking IDs and refusing sales to minors - taken by the majority of retailers, new data showing a notable spike in the non-compliance rate to over 12% raises many concerns.”
There are many factors that may contribute to this spike in tobacco sales to youth including lack of training and education. 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 and train retailers and clerks since we consider them to be key partners in keeping tobacco out of the hands of youth,” Sheahan said.
Continued education and outreach will be needed in 2015 to lower the rates of sales of tobacco products to minors. The 2014 Wisconsin Youth Tobacco Survey discovered that while youth smoking rates have hit an all time low, the use of other tobacco products, such as chewing tobacco, little cigars and electronic cigarettes, are rising dramatically.
Free training is available at https://www.smokecheck.org/ which is funded by Wisconsin’s Tobacco Prevention and Control Program. State law requires that all retailers train their employees and have a certificate in the employee’s file stating that they have completed mandatory tobacco training. More details about the Wisconsin Wins program can be found at http://www.wiwins.org/