The Wisconsin African American Tobacco Prevention Network and the City of Milwaukee Tobacco-Free Alliance joined forces with the community to conduct compliance checks across five police districts
To prevent illegal tobacco sells to minors, the African American Tobacco Prevention Network and City of Milwaukee Tobacco-Free Alliance teamed up with the Milwaukee City Police Department, to conduct WI Wins (WI Wins) compliance checks, which involve attempts by minors to purchase cigarettes or OTPs from local retailers.
By state law, retailers are required to post signs warning patrons that only adults can purchase tobacco and to ask for a photo I.D.—such as a driver’s license or state I.D.—before selling tobacco. But when the pairs of WI Wins youth recently entered into 82 retailers, 14 of them violated state law and sold one or more tobacco products to a minor.
“It was really easy, 5 out of 10 times we were able to buy tobacco products in District 5,” said 15 year-old WI Wins participant, Marcus. It’s just sad because many of the kids I see smoking today would have a harder time getting the tobacco if stores stopped selling to them.”
Compliance checks involve attempts by WI Wins minors to purchase cigarettes or other tobacco products (OTPs) from local retailers. The youth are accompanied by a police officer and an adult driver/ chaperon who remain behind the scenes until the checks have been completed. This round of compliance checks resulted in 14 sells which translates into nearly a 4 percent increase from tobacco sells to minors just a few months ago and represents 17 percent of all attempted buys for this reporting period. This figure is troubling because it is nearly four times higher than the 2010 state reported percentage of tobacco sells to minors, which was 4.7 percent.
The police officers issued citations up to $500.00 to violators. The retailers also risked a tobacco license suspension for up to 30 days. Those who did not sell were thanked for complying with state law. In addition to citations and license suspensions, WI Wins works to educate businesses to help keep them in compliance with state law.
“This is a problem that shows the critical need for our community to stand up and let retailers know that this is unacceptable,” said Robert Cherry, coordinator, City of Milwaukee Tobacco Free Alliance.
Residents can report violations by contacting their local police departments after seeing someone possibly violate state law by appearing to sell to a minor.
“It takes a community to prevent youth from having access to tobacco,” said Lorraine Lathen, program director, Wisconsin African American Tobacco Prevention Network. “WI Wins brings coalitions, youth, police officers and adult residents together for an exciting effort, but beyond the compliance checks we can all do our part by reporting any retailer we see selling to youth.”
The WI Wins is a joint project of the City of Milwaukee Tobacco Free Alliance and the Wisconsin African American Tobacco Prevention Network (WAATPN). It is a state-level initiative designed to decrease youth access to tobacco products. The WI Wins campaign was launched in the spring of 2002 to assure compliance with the Federal Synar regulation which requires states to maintain a youth access rate of less than 20 percent and is part of a comprehensive approach to preventing youth retail access to tobacco. The program uses a positive reinforcement strategy to support retailers who refuse to sell tobacco to minors.