New campaign reinforces tobacco law; 21 legal sales age

e-cigarette (Photo by Marijan Murat/picture alliance via Getty Images)

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) has launched a public education campaign with one simple message: 21 is the minimum legal sales age for tobacco and vape products – no matter what. 

According to a press release, the campaign’s importance is underscored by recent Synar Surveys, the annual statewide assessments of the retailer violation rate for underage sale of tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, or vapes.  In 2022, the rate at which retailers sold tobacco and nicotine products to underage purchasers was 11.9%, more than double the pre-pandemic rate of 5.5%. The 2022 rate fell from 14.1% in 2021, the highest rate in over a decade.  

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Synar Survey monitored tobacco and vape sales to those under age 18; however, the two most recent surveys monitored sales to those under age 21. This change follows a federal increase in the legal tobacco purchasing age from 18 to 21 at the end of 2019. 

The statewide retailer inspection program was also interrupted due to the pandemic, and underage tobacco and vape sales rose steeply during that time.  

SIGN UP TODAY: Get daily headlines, breaking news emails from FOX6 News

 "Nearly 7900 Wisconsinites die every year from preventable tobacco-related disease. Young people can become addicted before they are old enough to understand the risks," said Wisconsin Department of Health Services Deputy Secretary Deb Standridge. "Following the Tobacco 21 law can save lives."