Fewer Teens Smoking, but Tobacco Easier to Obtain - WBAY

Fewer Teens Smoking, but Tobacco Easier to Obtain

Fox Valley -

Smoking among teens in Wisconsin is at an all time low of 13 percent. But a report released this week shows it's now easier than ever for teens in this state to get their hands on tobacco.

Fewer teen in Wisconsin are choosing to smoke and that's a good thing.

"We had a lot more funding for tobacco control several years ago and we made some really good inroads in terms of educating," says Kurt Eggebrecht from the Appleton Health Department. "But now that those funds have been cut back through the last several years there's been less education and primary prevention, keeping youth from smoking."

But retailers who continue to sell tobacco products to underage kids are still a problem. In fact, a recent Wisconsin Department of Health Services report shows a 35% increase in the number of retailers who've sold tobacco to minors in just the past four years.

Eggebrecht says, "It's a great concern because once youth get addicted to nicotine they're more likely to smoke into adulthood and that's really what we're trying to prevent."

Recent compliance checks were completed in Fond du Lac and in five of the 16 stores tested, tobacco was sold to underage teens.

"Out of those sales that took place," says Sandy Bernier from Five Counties for Tobacco-Free Living, "those five sales, three of those employees asked to see a minors ID, looked at it and sold tobacco. Two of them didn't ask to see an ID."

While both situations are problematic, not asking for an ID is even more of a concern, especially since Wisconsin ID's for minors are almost foolproof and clearly marked with the month, day and year a teen turns 18. Officials with anti-smoking coalitions say store owners needs to make sure they're properly training their employees and they suggest using the free of charge smokecheck.org website.

Because according to Bernier, "The most important thing for the coalition is to keep tobacco out of the hands of children, not to issue citations to employees who fail these checks."

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