DHS: Reminds retailers of new tobacco purchase age

An ongoing campaign from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) has a simple message to retailers: don’t sell tobacco to anyone under the age of 21.

The Federal tobacco purchasing age was raised from 18 to 21 at the beginning of the 2020, a change that was long overdue. In America, 9 in 10 adults who smoke regularly started smoking by the age of 18, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Recent data from the Wisconsin Behavioral Risk Factor Survey (WBRFS) found that 15 percent of individuals between the ages of 18-24 use E-cigarettes, while 13.4 percent of that group smokes cigarettes. Close to 4,700 young people, under 21, try their first cigarette each day and 1,400 will become regular smokers. One-third to one-half of these kids will die from smoking-related diseases, according to the American Lung Association. “Tobacco 21” can help break this cycle of death and disease.

In support of the DHS’ campaign, members of Jump at the Sun Consultants are reaching out to tobacco retailers in suburban Milwaukee and Ozaukee County to provide signage and other helpful resources on the federal T21 law. One of those resources helps them to access WiTobaccoCheck.org, which provides free online training for employees, and best practices for checking ID’s. Retailers were also given a new window decal detailing the new age requirement as a deterrent for underage buyers. Health advocates are devoting time and resources to educate and provide community outreach to deter youth from acquiring a devastating addiction. Changing the law was just one piece of the puzzle.

Retailers looking to learn more about this change in Federal tobacco sales law should visit www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/tobacco21. They can receive access to free, state-approved training to help their employees avoid underage sales at www.witobaccocheck.org. This training is intended to keep communities healthier and prevents retailers from receiving fines for selling tobacco to those underage. Tobacco users ready to quit can call 1-800-QUIT NOW (784-8669) or text “READY” to 200-400 for free help. Tobacco users enrolled in Medicaid can also talk to their doctor about free support available.