Wisconsin Synar Report shows ‘significant increase’ in commercial tobacco sales to underage purchasers

For the Tomahawk Leader

WISCONSIN – The 2021 Wisconsin Synar Report, which measures the percentage of Wisconsin retailers that sell tobacco to underage purchasers, shows a “significant increase” in commercial tobacco sales to underage purchasers, a release from the Oneida County Health Department (OCHD) said.

According to the release, 2021 Synar rate was 14.1%, compared to 5.5% in 2019. The report was not completed in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

OCHD said a key difference between the 2019 and 2021 rate is the change in federal law.

In Dec. 2019, the federal minimum age to purchase tobacco products increased from 18 to 21. The 2019 survey measured retailer sales based on the previous federal age of 18, while the 2021 survey measured retailer sales based on the current federal age of 21.

“It is important to note that about 95% of adult smokers began smoking before turning 21, and 80% started before age 18,” OCHD stated. “Therefore, preventing tobacco use before 21 is a crucial step to avoid life-long addiction.”

Although Wisconsin retailers are required to follow the federal sales law, the State of Wisconsin has yet to adopt 21 as the minimum purchasing age for tobacco.

“This creates confusion for retailers and complicates local enforcement,” OCHD said.

Free training for retailers is available at www.witobaccocheck.org.  The state-approved training provides information on tobacco sales law. Those who complete the program receive a certificate for their employer’s records.

OCHD noted that additional support is also available for individuals looking for help to quit smoking.

“Simply call the Wisconsin Tobacco Quit Line at 1-800-QUIT NOW (784-8669) or text ‘ready’ to 200-400,” OCHD said.

Individuals enrolled in Medicaid can also receive free help to quit smoking through the Wisconsin Medicaid Cessation Benefit.

Free help for teens is offered by texting “VAPEFREE” to 873373.

For more information or resources on local tobacco prevention initiatives, contact OCHD at 715-369-6110.

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