MADISON, WIS (WKBT) -

State health officials are encouraging retailers to take advantage of free, online tools that train retail staff on how to avoid tobacco sales to minors.

“We want to partner with retailers to help ensure that children don’t buy tobacco products – a goal everyone shares,” said Dr. Henry Anderson, State Health Officer. “Approximately 80 percent of all adult smokers begin smoking before age 18,” Anderson said.

States are required by the federal Synar regulation to keep tobacco sales to minors under 20 percent statewide. To help accomplish that goal, local community organizations – as part of the Wisconsin Wins program – work with retailers to determine whether tobacco is being sold to minors at their stores. Retailers are encouraged to use the program’s free online training to help staff learn how to check that a customer is old enough to legally buy tobacco products.

Since 2004, Wisconsin has successfully kept the rate of tobacco sales to minors well below the 20 percent rate. Between 2008 and 2013, the rate ranged from 4.7 to 7.3 percent.

 “Our goal has been to keep this rate in the single digits, and our communities are eager to help local retailers achieve continued success,” Anderson said.

To access the online training tools for retail staff, visit www.smokecheck.org.