The Wisconsin Wins (WI Wins) program prevents tobacco sales to minors, and through the Wisconsin African American Tobacco Prevention Network (WAATPN), it recently completed 373 compliance checks in the City of Milwaukee; of those there were 44 tobacco sales to minors.
In 2002 to comply with federal law, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services created WI Wins to reduce the number of sales to minors. At that time, sales to minors represented 33% of all tobacco sales in the state. Governor Doyle recently announced that sales to minors are now down to 4.7%.
For some cities and counties the percentages are higher. In the City of Milwaukee, the 44 retailers that sold to minors represent 8.5% of the city’s tobacco sales.
The compliance checks took place within districts one through seven.
Fifty-six participants completed the checks—14 police officers, 14 chaperons and 28 youth between ages 15 and 17. Each team consisted of one police officer, one chaperone and two youth. Participants were compensated for their efforts.
“It wasn’t all about the money; 63% of the participants, including the youth, participated because they wanted to prevent the sale of tobacco to minors,” said Billy Spencer, Project Coordinator of the WAATPN and WI Wins contractor. “That shows the community’s support for continuous tobacco prevention programs,” he said.
Retailers that violated the law and sold to the youth were ticketed on the spot. Those who complied were recognized and thanked for not selling to them. Businesses also received free education to help them stay in compliance with the law.
By keeping illegal sales low, WI Wins guarantees the state $10 million in federal funding. Rates exceeding the 20% maximum result in a 40% reduction in the state’s federally funded Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment (SAPT) Block Grant.
WI Wins also benefits the state by saving money. By making access to tobacco products more difficult for kids, WI Wins prevents a next generation of tobacco users—saving billions in preventable healthcare costs and lost productivity.
“Although we can celebrate the state’s reduction in tobacco sales to minors to 4.7%, there is still more work to do,” said Lorraine Lathen, President of Jump at the Sun Consultants, LLC and co-convener of the WAATPN. “ 8.5% percent of sales to minors in the Milwaukee community is evidence of the need for adequate state tobacco control and prevention funding,” she said.
WI Wins is implemented as an important component of Wisconsin’s comprehensive tobacco prevention program.