MARINETTE — New data from the Wisconsin Synar survey shows that little cigarillos are increasingly being sold to minors, even as the number of retailers selling any tobacco product to kids has gone down slightly.

The Synar survey, which monitors the percentage of retailers across the state that sell tobacco to minors shows that the overall sales rate of tobacco products has remained stable at 5.5% in 2019 (down from 5.8% in 2018). However, the product most often sold to youth was cigarillos for the second year in a row (7.4% in 2018 and 7% in 2019). Members of the Northwoods Tobacco Free Coalition expressed concern over that trend.

“Seeing that retailers are selling cigarillos more often to minors is concerning, especially since we know these products are so attractive to young people,” said Jean Sanborn, Marinette County Public Health nurse. “Many of these cigarillos can be bought for as cheap as three for 99 cents, and unlike cigarettes, they come in candy and fruit flavors like grape and cherry, making them more appealing to kids.”

In addition to their cheaper prices and kid-friendly flavors, the Northwoods Tobacco Free Coalition noted that, unlike cigarettes, these products don’t need to be displayed behind the counter. In fact, many times they are placed near candy and snacks.

While cigarillos may be flavored and displayed differently than conventional cigarettes, they carry the same health harms. Cigarillos contain as much nicotine, possibly even more than cigarettes, and higher levels of toxic chemicals in the cigar smoke. Cigar use increases the risk of oral, laryngeal, esophageal and lung cancer along with COPD. Tooth decay and gum disease is also common with cigar product use.

“Any of these are reason enough for concern, but cigarillos are also increasing health disparities since they are often sold aggressively in communities that are already more impacted by tobacco,” said Sanborn.

Tobacco retailers in Wisconsin are encouraged to visit witobaccocheck.org to take advantage of free training to help them avoid future underage sales. “We know retailers want to do the right thing and help their community, and the training at witobaccocheck.org can help them do just that.”

For more on tobacco prevention efforts, visit Wisconsin Department of Health Services Tobacco Prevention and Control at www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/tobacco/index.htm.