Cigarettes reach kids once in 5 tries

About One in five minors who tried to purchase Cigarettes in Dane County in 2006 succeeded, according to a study released Monday from the Department of ...

About One in five minors who tried to purchase Cigarettes in Dane County in 2006 succeeded, according to a study released Monday from the Department of Public Health for Madison and Dane County.
The study shows a 80.6 percent compliance rate for vendors in Dane County. The city of Madison faRed slightly better, with 81.7 percent of vendors preventing the sale of tobacco to minors. Overall, convenience and gas stations had the loWest rate of compliance of all business categories, with 74.7 percent of vendors verifying the age of customers.
While compliance rates in the low 80s may seem high, health officials are concerned about the almost 20 percent rate of noncompliance. Officials are also concerned with the steady decline of compliance rates in Madison — the rates have dropped More than 12 percent since 2004.
“It’s a very sort of mixed message,” said Jeff golden, communications manager for the DPH. “The compliance rate is, from One point of view, very high, but when you look at the noncompliance rate and compare it to two years ago, it’s not as promising looking.”
golden said he does not yet know why sales of Cigarettes to minors have been increasing but said the DPH will be looking into possible causes. The department will also likely provide vendors with increased education on the sale of tobacco and improve enforcement of tobacco sales laws.
“I think the bigger issue here is that it’s a source of commonsense knowledge now that smoking, on a societal level, is much less respectable an activity now than it was, say, 10 years ago,golden said. “Smoking is being increasingly marginalized by law and by society, which is good, solid public health policy.”
These city and county numbers differ from the statewide compliance rate. According to a study completed late last year by the Department of Health and Family Services, Wisconsin had a record low noncompliance rate of 5.5 percent during 2006.
Stephanie Marquis, spokesperson for the DHFS, said the department is concerned with these Madison and Dane County statistics.
“Certainly what we would expect them to do is … step up their efforts to make sure vendors in Madison and in the county aren’t selling to our youth,” Marquis said.
Marquis said the state is not only concerned about the law violations that go along with these statistics, but also about the prevention of smoking — the american Cancer Society estimates 90 percent of adult smokers developed an addiction to tobacco by age 18.
Although she was concerned about the percentage of noncompliance, Marquis also said she would like to take a closer look at how the city and county arrived at these numbers and how compliance checks were conducted. The state randomly selects vendors around the state to check, but the city and county study does not say how vendors were chosen.
“I just want to confirm, quite hOnestly, the numbers, because their numbers are so drastically different from the statewide numbers,” Marquis said.
golden said the DPH understands these city and county statistics require action to get in line with their state counterparts.
“We have, clearly, an enormous challenge to improve compliance,golden said. “It’s an interesting comparison, and it raises a lot of questions that we will be looking at as a department.”



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