By Ana Martinez-Ortiz
For the past 17 years, Graciela Hernandez has owned Mi Pais, 1401 W. Greenfield Ave., a corner store, which sells liquor, groceries and cigarettes. As part of the store’s regulations, Hernandez refuses to sell singles or loosies, the term used to describe the sale of a single cigarette out of the entire pack.
Selling single cigarettes is illegal, but Hernandez recalled that back in the day, it was a common practice at many stores. Because Hernandez refused to sell singles, she often dealt with irate customers, but now things have started to change.
Earlier this week, the Wisconsin African American Tobacco Prevention Network’s (WAATPN) Single Cigarette Committee launched its “No Singles/ No Loosies” campaign, which aims to raise awareness regarding the issues associated with selling single cigarettes.
Singles or loosies, are often purchased by minors or low-income residents who can’t afford the whole pack. According to the WAATPN, the smoking rate of non-Hispanic Black adults is about 28 percent, which is nearly double the national average.
As part of the campaign, WAATPN worked with tobacco retailers throughout Milwaukee. Now, stores like Mi Pais can display posters in English and Spanish, which say: “No Singles”, “No Cigarillos Individuales” and “No Loosies.”
Hernandez said joining the campaign and displaying the posters has given Mi Pais a better support system.
“It’s another big tool to help us run our store more efficiently,” she said.
In addition to the posters, WAATPN also worked with county officials, such as Ald. Cavalier Johnson and Health Commissioner Jeanette Kowalik.
During the press conference, Johnson said he wants to make sure that Milwaukee doesn’t produce another generation of smokers, which is part of the reason he got involved. In 2016, a survey by the WAATPN found that 75 percent of Milwaukee residents believe the sale of loosies or singles is a problem.
Last year, the City of Milwaukee increased the fine to $691, for retailers who were caught selling singles. Before then, a first offense cost $181 with the second and subsequent offenses costing $321.
In addition to organization like WAATPN, young adults such as Anthony Blake are getting involved in the fight against tobacco use among teens.
Two months ago, Blake joined FACT, a youth organization which speaks out against tobacco use among teens. Raised by a single mother, Blake said he grew up in impoverished neighborhoods and was often surrounded by smokers. There’s a lot of pressure to smoke tobacco or marijuana, he said.
Despite the peer pressure, Blake is quick to turn down any cigarette or joint. When offered a smoke, Blake simply says no, bearing in mind that he’s setting an example.
With the “No Singles/No Loosies” campaign underway, Kowalik said it’s a step in the right direction.
To join the campaign, call 414-215-0756 or email Waatpn@jumpatthesunllc. com.
To quit smoking call, 1-800-QUITNOW.