Winnebago County Illegal Tobacco Sales More Than Double Over Last Year
More must be done to ensure continued funding to reduce sales to minors.
Winnebago County- The Winnebago County Tobacco Free Coalition, in partnership with the Wisconsin Wins (WI WINS) program, completed their 2008 tobacco compliance checks on local tobacco retailers with some discouraging results. In 2008, Winnebago County’s non-compliance rate of illegal sales to minors rose drastically to nearly 23% (62 sales of 271 completed checks). In 2007, the non-compliance rate for Winnebago County was around 10%. This news comes on the heels of the State struggling with possibly having to cut some grant funded programs, including the Tobacco Prevention and Control Program to meet the current biennial budget deficit.
The WI Wins tobacco compliance check program is funded through the WI Department of Health Services. Grant dollars are then distributed to local tobacco coalitions to help prevent youth from using tobacco. One way to reduce access to tobacco is by making tobacco products difficult to get and when it’s hard to get, they use less. Compliance checks are a proven method used to make sure retailers are not selling tobacco products to minors. However, if funding for the Tobacco Prevention and Control Program gets cut, important programs like these will suffer.
In 2005, Winnebago County had one of the highest non-compliance rates in the state with a staggering 28% (91 of 327 establishments) selling tobacco to minors. Winnebago County Tobacco Free Coalition Coordinator and Health Educator, Emily Dieringer states, "We’ve seen significant progress in just a few years, thanks in part to having the resources available and partnerships with local law enforcement to get the word out about not selling tobacco to minors." All seven Winnebago County Law enforcement agencies issue citations to clerks or license holders who sell tobacco to minors. (Citations rates range from $109 up to $298.) "But I’m afraid if program funding gets cut, we won’t have the resources available to reduce that non-compliance rate that rose so sharply this year, which means, it will be easier for kids to get tobacco products in Winnebago County."
On average, Wisconsin has seen a steady decline in non-compliance rates since the program’s inception in 2001. The CDC recommends a comprehensive tobacco control program that combines vigorous enforcement, political support from the State government, and a climate of active social norms that discourage youth tobacco use (http://prevention.samhsa.gov/tobacco/). States that have the lowest non-compliance rates of illegal tobacco sales to minors, like Wisconsin, also have a comprehensive tobacco control program. "If funding of the Tobacco Prevention and Control Program is cut, increased sales to minors and more youths using tobacco is a real possibility," Dieringer adds.