Bright packaging, fun flavors lead to uptick in underage tobacco use

Bright packaging, fun flavors lead to uptick in underage tobacco use
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The Wisconsin Department of Health Services believes kid friendly packaging for tobacco products is leading to more underage use.

“A few years ago we were celebrating because most kids were saying ‘using tobacco is not cool’ and now we are seeing this uptick underneath,” said Karen McKeown, a state health officer. “People are now saying ‘this flavored stuff might be kind of cool and I might be willing to try that,'” McKeown said.

In a 2016 survey, 80 percent of Wisconsin high schoolers who had used tobacco said the first product they tried was flavored.

“We’re concerned that this could result in a resurgence of tobacco and we want to try to catch that early,” McKeown said.

The Department of Health Services launched a campaign to inform parents about brightly packaged, candy-flavored tobacco products targeted to appeal to children called “Tobacco is Changing.” McKeown wants parents to educate themselves about the products using the website tobaccoischanging.com and then talk to their kids.

“If you’re talking with your kids they listen. They do care what you think, they care what you know and so we just encourage you to have these conversations and to know what your kids may be experiencing,” McKeown said.

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