Tobacco sales to minors in Dane County still high

Posted: Monday, February 24, 2014 --- 9:25pm

When you think about tobacco, consider this: in the United States, 35,000 people die in car crashes every year, but 450,000 people die from tobacco-related causes every year.

Now think about this: 80-percent of all smokers start before they turn 18.

"Young people are very impressionable” says Lyle Burmeister, Columbia and Dane County WI WINS Coordinator. That's why area public health officials, now more than ever, are pushing enforcement and education to ensure teens don't wind up another statistic.

"Tobacco is still the number one killer and we have to remember that” says Burmeister.

You've probably seen the signs stating “we check IDs.” But how many businesses in Dane County actually do? Under federal law, businesses must card anyone under the age of 27, who is trying to buy tobacco. To make sure they actually do that, Wisconsin trains teens who are 16 or 17 years old under the Wisconsin WINS program. The teens will go into businesses and try to buy a tobacco product.

The good news is that the number of Dane County businesses, who failed this test, is down.

In 2013, 313 tobacco vendors in Dane County and Madison were checked and 28 wound up making sales to minors. That's a 4-percent decline over 2012, but there's more work to be done, with about 47,000 Wisconsin high school students still smoking.

The county is looking to businesses to step up and train their employees, therefore lowering the number of sales to minors, and hopefully saving more lives.

“They're the first line of defense. If they can do their job and stop young people and students from buying tobacco, maybe we can cut into that big number as well” says Burmeister.

More details about the Wisconsin WINS program can be found at

Free training is available at

Tobacco quit line information for Wisconsin can be found by heading to

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