Most summers, teens spend their days playing video games, watching TV, surfing the net or hanging out at the park. But, a group of teens from Milwaukee, including members of FACT, the state’s youth-led tobacco prevention movement, did something much more impactful this year.
They participated in the Wisconsin Wins program, an initiative to reduce teen tobacco use through education and compliance checks of retailers who sell tobacco. In the City of Milwaukee tobacco was sold to minors during nearly one in four compliance checks in 2016. A total of 389 compliance checks were conducted in the city last year.
Lila Johnson,17, a member of the Wisconsin Tobacco Prevention and Poverty Network FACT group conducted compliance checks this year. She said she did so to become even more involved in helping youth remain smoke-free.
“I want to help as many youth as possible avoid a deadly habit they might never be able to kick,” Johnson said.
Johnson joined the tobacco prevention and education group FACT, which has 2,784 members in 28 groups throughout Wisconsin, after seeing teens she knew start smoking and using e-cigarettes.
“It’s sad but not surprising when you consider how common tobacco retailers are in Milwaukee,” she added.
Danielle Foster, 16, a member of the Wisconsin African American Tobacco Prevention Network FACT group, also conducted compliance checks this summer. Foster, who joined FACT in 2014, said for the most part, they went very smoothly. But, she has heard from other teens that there are store owners who do sell to minors. She hopes those who are caught learn their lesson after receiving a fine.
“They need to know there are consequences for them when they sell to minors,” Foster said.
Johnson has a strong message for store owners who do sell tobacco to minors.
“Selling tobacco to minors is not worth losing your store over. It’s also not right to allow underage teens to pick up an addiction they might never be able to cure,” she said.