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Store checks show illegal sales of tobacco are down


RHINELANDER, WI (WSAU) -  Retailers are doing a better job of preventing tobacco sales to minors. That’s according to Kyla Waksmonski from the Oneida County Health Department. She helps administer the Wisconsin Wins Program, which uses underaged volunteers to test retailers of tobacco products.

Waksmonski says they work with Oneida, Lincoln, Florence, Forest, Price, and Vilas counties. Although many clerks made the mistake of selling to the underaged buyers, more and more clerks are getting it right.

She says the 16 and 17-year-old volunteers have to work in pairs and follow specific rules as they try and buy tobacco products.  "They cannot lie about anything.  They have to provide identification if they're asked.  They can't lie about their birthdate or anything like that.  We're hoping what happens is when their identification gets checked, they're just turned away."

Retailers know when they’ve been checked, and can benefit from the Wisconsin WINS training resources.  "Right away, we let them know that they were checked.  We give them a thank you, and the clerk gets a little gift for doing the right thing and not selling.  We also provide retailers with free training resources for their clerks, which they are very appreciative of, because then they can have certificates on file so everything is documented that they've trained their employees."

Retailers have an ever-changing challenge of checking someone’s identification, and she says the Oneida County Health Department can help with that.

She says the Wisconsin WINS program can’t check every retailer.   They have a small budget and must rely on a sample of each county's retailers.

The most recent sample found 11 improper sales out of 62 attempts in Oneida County, 4 out of 34 in Lincoln County, 4 out of 23 in Forest County, 9 out of 26 in Price County, 11 out of 52 in Vilas County, and no illegal sales of the 13 Florence County retailers tested by the Wisconsin WINS volunteers.

Retailers that would like training materials for their staff can contact the Vilas County Health Department at 715-369-6114, or go to www.smokecheck.org .