Health officials look to crack down on illegal e-cigarette sales

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - While illegal sales of tobacco are monitored in Wisconsin, health officials say a growing concern is the sale of e-cigarettes to underage customers.

It comes as the Eau Claire City-County Health Department says e-cigarettes are rising in popularity.

Health educator Rachael Manning said, “While traditional tobacco use is at an all-time low what we’re seeing is that youth use of e-cigarettes has tripled in a years’ time which is really concerning.”

Manning says further action needs to be taken to prevent early exposure to nicotine products.

“The longer we can keep youth from using tobacco and nicotine products, the less likely they are to develop an addiction,” explained Manning.

For the first time, local municipalities are being required to track the sale of liquid nicotine and e-cigarettes under the Wisconsin WINS program to prevent the illegal sale of products to underage customers.

“To know that some retailers locally may be illegally selling to youth, that's concerning and that's one of the reason we do these compliance checks,” said Manning.

Vape-shop E-Cig 53 says it's already taking a proactive approach.

“I think with the signs on our door letting them know right away that without an ID we will not sell to them kind of gives them the forewarning,” said manager Nichole Gutowski.

Gutowski says anyone who looks to be under 30-years-old has to present I.D.

Gutowski explained, “We really want to make sure we're not giving them the open door to lead them to nicotine.”

E-cigarettes don't contain tobacco but they do contain nicotine. Manning says right now little is known about the long-term effects.

“Many of them do contain nicotine which we know is highly addictive and it has a negative impact on the adolescent developing brain and a lasting impact,” said Manning.

The department says it's currently preparing to perform local e-cigarette compliance checks.

“We look forward to having that data in the future and to look then at additional strategies that will help us reduce youth access to both tobacco and nicotine products,” said Manning.

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