Wisconsin has made great strides in decreasing youth tobacco use in Wisconsin.
In 2000, a third of Wisconsin high school students regularly smoked.
Today, that number stands at 13.1 percent.
Limiting underage sales of tobacco products has played a key role in decreasing youth smoking in Wisconsin.
Sales to minors have decreased a remarkable 80 percent since 2001 as a result of the Wisconsin Wins program.
This program is an initiative that includes compliance checks, local outreach and free online training for tobacco retailers.
More details are available at www.wiwins.org.
Sadly, Wisconsin seems to have taken past successes for granted.
The state currently funds the Wisconsin Tobacco Prevention and Control Program at only $5.3 million.
That might sound like a big number, but the tobacco industry spends 25 times that amount every year to market their products in Wisconsin.
The reductions to the statewide tobacco program have also meant cuts to local prevention efforts.
Here in Waupaca County, the number of Wisconsin Wins compliance checks has decreased from 180 in 2008 to 36 in 2013.
That means fewer retailers are getting the information needed to help them avoid selling tobacco to minors, and more youth may beable to access tobacco products.
Tobacco’s impact on Wisconsin is incredibly far-reaching.
It takes nearly 8,000 lives each year and costs Wisconsin $4.5 billion annually in health care expenses and lost productivity.
We can’t let that devastation continue.
Our kids and the health of our state are counting on us.
We must keep tobacco prevention efforts a priority in Wisconsin.