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Data from the latest federal report on National Youth Tobacco Survey found that an estimated 1.73 million fewer youth currently report using any tobacco product in 2020 (4.47 million) compared to 2019 (6.20 million). Although this news is promising, it’s far from time to celebrate, considering 3.6 million youth nationally still report current e-cigarette use.
In Wisconsin, 32 percent of high schoolers have tried e-cigarettes, and 20 percent consider themselves current users. Health risks from e-cigarette use include:
- Some of the industry’s most popular e-cigarette pods contain as much nicotine as 20 cigarettes.
- E-liquids can contain heavy metals like nickel, tin, and lead.
- Diacetyl, a flavoring found in many e-liquids, has been linked to lung disease.
- Nicotine can harm the parts of the brain that control attention and learning.
In addition, tobacco companies continue to use flavors such as menthol to lure young customers. A campaign from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, Tobacco is Changing, which highlights those risks while providing tips for parents on how to help keep the deadly products out of the hands of youth.
But, there is another line of defense: tobacco retailers. Tobacco retailers are obligated to take all the necessary precautions to ensure that they don’t sell tobacco to anyone under the age of 21. That includes making sure the person purchasing the tobacco is the person whose ID you are checking, check the date and validity of the ID, and if possible, implement point-of-sale technology to verify the validity of identification cards.
Additional steps to help reduce youth access to tobacco include displaying signage informing customers that the legal age to purchase tobacco is 21, not selling single cigarettes, and placing tobacco behind the shelf and away from youth appeal products such as candy. Store owners can also receive a free online training for retailers on compliance checks through the witobaccocheck.org website.
Milwaukee area tobacco retailers can also support the community by partnering with Wisconsin African American Tobacco Prevention Network and joining our No Singles No Loosies campaign to end the illegal sale of single cigarettes or by participating in No Menthol Sunday, by not selling menthol tobacco that day.
Together, we can help prevent youth from accessing tobacco and developing a potentially deadly tobacco addiction.
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