Laurel White

Wisconsin Public Radio

Retailers would have to put flavored cigars in a locked case or behind the counter with other tobacco products under a bill in the state Legislature.

Federal law requires stores to keep cigarettes and chewing tobacco behind the counter or in a locked case to keep them away from children, but there are some tobacco products, including flavored cigars, that those federal regulations don't touch.

Under a bill in the state Legislature, those cigars and other products, including e-cigarettes and vaping supplies, would also have to be put behind the counter.

"Tobacco use leads our state in preventable deaths and significantly increases health care costs as well as productivity," said former state Sen. Sheila Harsdorf, R-River Falls, in committee testimony earlier this month.

Harsdorf sponsored the legislation in the Senate, before departing for her new appointment as secretary of the state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.

A number of health organizations support the legislation, including the American Heart Association and the American Cancer Society.

Sara Sahli, government relations director for the ACS' Cancer Action Network, said flavored cigars are sometimes put near products like candy in stores, where kids can see them.

She believes moving the products to another location will help prevent underage tobacco use in Wisconsin.

"We're making sure that these tobacco products, which are intended to be used by anyone 18 and older, are in fact kept in that age group," she said.

The bill passed the state Senate unanimously earlier this month. It has yet to be heard in the Assembly.

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