Candy-flavored tobacco linked to youth sale rise

Underage tobacco sales in Wisconsin increased from 7.2 percent in 2016 to 7.7 percent in 2017, according to the Synar Survey, which measures how frequently tobacco retailers sell to minors.

The jump brings Wisconsin closer to double digit underage tobacco sales than it’s been at any time in the last decade.

“While the jump may not seem major, it’s part of a trend we’ve been noticing the last several years,” said Sheboygan County Health and Human Services Division of Public Health Public Health Nurse Elizabeth Abler said. “The rate increase gets much larger once you compare it to five years ago, when we were at 5.5 percent.”

While the state’s new underage tobacco sales rate gives members of Healthy Sheboygan County 2020 pause, they’re also concerned about other tobacco trends they’re seeing in stores.

From May through August, volunteers visited stores throughout Sheboygan County to see how tobacco was displayed and advertised in stores.

They found that tobacco is still accessible and marketed towards youth. Some stores featured flavored tobacco products prominently and often displayed next to candy.

“One of our main concerns when it comes to kids and tobacco is the fact that eight out of 10 youth tobacco users say they started with a flavored product,” Alber said. “Given that we saw flavors like gummy bear, cotton candy and popcorn at stores in our community, that’s not hard to believe.”

The concern about candy flavored tobacco isn’t limited to Sheboygan County.

Recently, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services launched a campaign called Tobacco is Changing to address the issue.

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