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Mixed Grades for Wisconsin in Tobacco Report

Young people who might never touch a cigarette are now experimenting with e-cigarettes, mistakenly believing they are safer, according to the American Lung Association. (FDA.gov)
Young people who might never touch a cigarette are now experimenting with e-cigarettes, mistakenly believing they are safer, according to the American Lung Association. (FDA.gov)
February 3, 2016

BROOKFIELD, Wis. - In the American Lung Association's just-released "State Of Tobacco Control" report, Wisconsin gets an "A" for smoke-free air, a "B" for tobacco taxes, and a pair of failing grades for a lack of tobacco prevention and control program funding and access to smoking cessation services.

Lloyd Clark, a manager of the American Lung Association in Wisconsin, says the state is winning the war on cigarettes, but not the war on tobacco. He says too many young people who might never touch a cigarette are experimenting with other tobacco products, mistakenly believing they are harmless.

"Next time you walk into a convenience store, take a look around: the cigarettes will be behind the counter because they have to be, but the other tobacco products will be right there next to the candy," says Clark. "The packaging is almost identical between the smokeless tobacco, the 'cigarillos,' the little cigars, and candy products."

The report says Wisconsin's comprehensive approach to end smoking is working, but there are troubling trends with young people and these other tobacco products. About 8 percent of Wisconsin high school students use e-cigarettes, compared with the national average of 4.5 percent.

E-cigarettes and other alternative tobacco products are marketed as being 'safer' than cigarettes, but Clark says that isn't the case, and more research needs to be done.

"They have just as much nicotine and other chemicals that are harmful to the body," says Clark. "And now, especially with e-cigarettes, we've finally got some scientific studies underway. We're finding out almost every day a new study comes out showing how dangerous these things actually are to people."

While consistent efforts in tobacco prevention and control, higher cigarette taxes, and Wisconsin's smoke-free law all have helped curb smoking, he says the newer products and huge marketing efforts behind them focus directly on kids.

"So, you have little cigars, cigarillos, e-smokes, it's all candy-flavored - chocolate flavor, you know, flavors like tutti-frutti," he says. "It's all aimed at the younger demographic to try to get them to start smoking."

According to Clark, the number of kids using other tobacco products is nearly approaching regular smoking rates, and he says parents need to be aware of what their kids are buying.

Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - WI