The Wisconsin Department of Health Services has unveiled a new campaign educating retailers that federal law now requires tobacco purchasers to be 21 years old. The campaign’s message to retailers is don’t sell tobacco to anyone under the age of 21.

The federal tobacco purchasing age was raised from 18 to 21 at the beginning of 2020, and local health advocates said it was a long-overdue change.

“Eighty percent of tobacco users started smoking before the age of 18,” said David Gilbert of Watertown, tobacco prevention specialist for the Wisconsin Wins Program. This law will help to fight against the peer supply line that exists.

“Since few students reach 21 while still in high school, raising the minimum sales age to 21 virtually eliminates high school students from legally buying tobacco, and helps break the peer supply chain to many of these younger smokers,” Gilbert said.

In addition to the DHS’ campaign, members of the Tobacco Free Community Partnership Dodge Jefferson Waukesha are also working to educate tobacco retailers in both Dodge and Jefferson Counties of the change in age. This education includes conducting public and media outreaches, which include speaking to local civic groups and reaching out to retailers with free, state-approved training for their employees.

Retailers looking to learn more about this change in federal tobacco sales law can visit www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/tobacco21 for more information. They can also get free, state-approved training to help their employees avoid underage sales at www.witobaccocheck.org.

This existing training is free to retailers and is intended to both keep the Dodge and Jefferson communities healthier and keep their retailers from receiving fines for selling tobacco to those underage.

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