State News

Juuls and swishers could be moved behind the counter, under new legislation

A bill introduced by state Sen. Shelia Harsdorf, R-River Falls, would move flavored tobacco and e-cigarettes behind the counter with other cigarettes in order to curb adolescent smoking.

Image By: Jon Yoon

A bill pending in the state Senate would require retailers to remove tobacco- and nicotine-related products from the show floor, placing them in a more secure location, inaccessible without retailer assistance.

Sponsored by state Sen. Sheila Harsdorf, R-River Falls, the bill restricts a customer’s access to various nicotine products, such as e-cig, flavored cigarettes or juuls. It would exempt those sold in vending machines, tobacco and nicotine product vendors or shelved in separate rooms off the show floor of a retail store that is visible to employees.

Following national trends to reduce tobacco consumption, the bill seeks to curb adolescent exposure and accessibility to tobacco products, with most becoming long-term smokers at an early age and developing health conditions later on in life.

“Tobacco use leads our state in preventable deaths and significantly increases health care costs as well as loss of productivity,” Harsdorf said in a letter to a Senate committee on Agriculture, Small Business and Tourism, referencing a statistic by the Department of Health Services that estimates 7,300 lives are lost annually from tobacco usage, with annual health care costs at $3 billion.

The bill received several public testimonials from concerned parents at a hearing held last month. They argued tobacco products are placed on the same shelves as snacks and candy, with some stating that companies are purposefully appealing to young people.

Every year, 2,900 kids under 18 become new daily smokers in Wisconsin, according to the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, with nearly 90 percent of all adult smokers picking up the habit in their adolescence. This statistic is compounded by corporate efforts to make tobacco products more appealing by removing repugnant tastes and odors while advertising euphemistic, cultural notions about smoking, according to ACS CAN.

Flavours for cigarettes range from chocolate, vanilla and caramel to tropical fruits to even cotton candy, the variety increasing among e-cigs.

With cancer being the number one cause of preventable deaths in the United States, efforts to curb the nation’s usage of tobacco products have been increasing ever since the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act in 2009. Wisconsin alone decreased adult smoking by 4 percent since 2011 and high school smoking by 42 percent since 2004.

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