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Illegal tobacco sales to minors up statewide, some central Wisconsin sites doing well


WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAU) -- The illegal sale of tobacco products to minors rose substantially in Wisconsin for the first time since 2008. That’s according to the state’s sales compliance survey, where underaged teens work with coordinators to try buying tobacco products from retailers.

The statewide survey shows clerks selling tobacco to minors 7.3% of the time, compared to 5.4% in 2012.

Dave Wille is the coordinator with the Wisconsin Wins Program, which performs the compliance surveys in Marathon, Wood, and Portage Counties. Wille says in central Wisconsin, there were some areas where retailers performed very well. “Last year in 2013, Wausau did very well. There were 25 establishments visited and none of them sold to minors. Marshfield and Stevens Point also did very well. They had 100% compliance.”

As far as the larger cities, Wisconsin Rapids is where Wille says he is most concerned. “In the City of Wisconsin Rapids, we had 21 retailers that were inspected during 2013, and 16 were in compliance. Five were not. The compliance rate was 76.2%, so there’s still some work to be done there.”

Overall, Wille says they found over 80% compliance in Rothschild and the Everest Metro districts. He says the best compliance average was Portage County with 97.5% having one illegal sale in 40 establishments. Wood County had 83.3% compliance, and Marathon County had 82.8% compliance.

Wille says they found retailers were properly asking to see identification nearly every time, but the clerk didn’t always look close at the I-D. “Looking at, and then properly reading the I-D, we have a little bit of work to do there yet. We had actually more sales last year where the clerk actually did ask for the I-D, and then either didn’t look at it or misread it and went ahead and made the sale anyway, than simply not asking for the I-D in the first place.”Retailers do get citations when they sell to underage customers.

Wille says he is concerned about fewer inspections because of state budget cuts, and believes the statewide increase in illegal tobacco sales could be because there are fewer checks than there used to be.