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Initiative targets tobacco use in Wisconsin

Wisconsin health officials want to decrease the adult smoking rate from 17.3 percent to 16.3 percent and reduce the rate high school students use tobacco products from 33.7 percent in 2014 to 31 percent by 2020, in this March 2017 file photo.

Underage tobacco sales are a growing problem, an official at the Chippewa County Department of Public Health said Tuesday, after a survey was released that indicated underage tobacco sales in Wisconsin had jumped from 7.2 percent in 2016 to 7.7 percent in 2017.

“While the jump may not seem major...the rate increase gets much larger once you compare it to five years ago, when we were at 5.5 percent,” said Jennifer Lenbom, coordinator of the WI WINS initiative in Chippewa County.

WI WINS is a state initiative aimed at decreasing youth access to tobacco.

Eight out of 10 youth smokers first use flavored tobacco products, like fruit- or candy-flavored tobacco, Lenbom said.

Data from WI WINS showed that in 2016, 60 inspections were conducted in retail stores across Chippewa County. Out of those inspections, nine locations sold tobacco to an underage youth.

For free state-approved training for retail employees, visit witobaccocheck.org.

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