CASHTON, Wis. (WXOW) - Twenty percent of adults in Wisconsin smoke. Among high school students, that number is 18%.
Four years ago this week Wisconsin banned cigarettes in public places like bars and restaurants.
Since then smoking rates among adults have dropped. But other tobacco products like e-cigarettes and hookahs are becoming popular with teenagers.
Kids can be easily attracted e-cigarettes because some of them are candy flavored with bright packaging, and relatively cheap. They aren't taxed the same as cigarettes and it's legal to smoke them in public. The average age a kid starts using tobacco is 11, said Judi Zabel with the La Crosse County Health Department.
Zabel said that e-cigarette use in kids under 18 has doubled in the last few years and that minors can easily buy these products even though it's illegal.
In recent compliance checks, where a minor goes in and tries to purchase a tobacco product, four local counties ranked among the worst in the state for selling it to them.
In Trempealeau, Jackson, Buffalo, and Vernon County at least 25% of the time a minor was able to purchase a tobacco product.
Area health educators say they need more funding to educate rural communities and educating parents to look for these new products will be key in getting kids to stop using.
Anne Anderson is a Public Health Nurse with the Monroe County Health Department. She said getting youth more involved in outreach will help as well.
Anderson and Zabel would like to see all types of tobacco products, not just cigarettes, to be under the Smoke-Free law.
Both Zabel and Anderson are a part of the 7 C's Health Initiative, which helps prevent and reduce tobacco related illness in our 7 local counties.
They work to create more awareness about different tobacco products. They said not much is known about the e-cigarette yet but the FDA is doing research currently that should be available within the next couple of months.
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