Survey shows underage tobacco sales rose in 2023 due to confusion over federal law
MADISON, Wis. (WSAW) - The Wisconsin Department of Health Services released the finding a report that shows underage tobacco and vape sales increased to 13.6% in 2023 from 11.9% in 2022.
The findings come from an annual statewide assessment of the retailer violation rate for underage sales of tobacco products, including e-cigarettes.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Synar Survey monitored tobacco and vape sales to those under age 18. However, the three most recent surveys monitored sales to those under age 21. This follows a change in federal law that raised the federal legal tobacco sales age from 18 to 21 at the end of 2019.
Wisconsin remains one of only eight states that has not changed its state law to match the federal law, which has caused confusion and enforcement challenges statewide.
In February 2023, DHS launched a public awareness campaign to reinforce the message that 21 is the minimum legal sales age for tobacco and vape products. The Tobacco 21 campaign includes messages for both the public and tobacco retailers.
“We continue to thank the majority of Wisconsin retailers who comply with federal law and do their part to protect youth by preventing underage tobacco and vape use, but we remain concerned with the high rate of noncompliance,” said State Health Officer and Division of Public Health Administrator Paula Tran. “Not only is following federal law a requirement, it’s also the right thing to do. Preventing underage tobacco sales can prevent lifelong addiction and save lives.”
Free training to help retailers comply with the Tobacco 21 sales law is available at witobaccocheck.org.
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