Tobacco Companies Target Minority Milwaukee Neighborhoods, Postal Service Looking To Raise Price On Forever Stamps, Vaccinations Exemptions

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The U.S. Postal Service is proposing its largest price hike since 1991. This time, it’s targeting the Forever Stamp. We hear how the potential five-cent price hike could help out the Postal Service, and what the hike would mean for consumers. We also hear how tobacco companies have targeted Milwaukee’s largely minority neighborhoods. And we take a look at a new CDC study that shows the number of Wisconsin kindergartners being exempted from vaccinations is above the national average.

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  • Report: Certain Milwaukee Neighborhoods See Aggressive Targeting Of Tobacco Sales

    Tobacco is sold at more locations and is marketed more strongly in predominantly African-American and Latino communities compared to white neighborhoods in and around Milwaukee, according to a report from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Zilber School of Public Health.

    The Milwaukee Collaborative Project relied on data collected in 2016 from 195 retailers in Milwaukee and the surrounding communities to survey the cost of tobacco products. The data also looked at how tobacco products were promoted and where they were located in the store, said Linnea Laestadius, a public health researcher at UW-Milwaukee and one of the authors of the report.

    “It’s really not good news, to put it frankly,” she said. “We are really seeing really strong targeting of these populations in a way that you would (also) see in other major cities in the U.S.”

    In the study, tobacco retailers in three different clusters were audited. The retailers were chosen based on whether the zip codes where they resided were predominantly white, Latino or black neighborhoods.

    In the cluster comprising of mostly white neighborhoods, 73 tobacco retailers served a population of about 110,000. In the cluster with the most African-American residents, 138 tobacco retailers served 82,000 people. The predominantly Latino neighborhoods were somewhere in the middle, with 121 retailers selling to a population of 102,000.

    “African-Americans are targeted way more than their counterparts in regards to cigarettes, specifically menthol cigarettes because they’re the easier way to become addicted to them due to the taste,” said Oby Nwabuzor, director of community impact, health equity and multicultural health at the American Heart Association, noting that menthol cigarettes aren’t as harsh as regular ones.

    This table shows the demographics breakdown for each zip code where tobacco sellers were audited. Graphic courtesy of a report from UW-Milwaukee’s Zilber School of Public Health.

    In majority-black neighborhoods, Newport Menthols sold for an average of $7.54, about 20 cents less than in predominantly white neighborhoods. Tobacco stores in mostly Latino neighborhoods saw the cheapest cigarettes, and sold for an average of $5.80, compared to $6.40 in mostly white areas.

    The study found that 81 percent of stores in African-American neighborhoods were selling small cigars for less than $1, compared to 50 percent of stores in white neighborhoods. While tobacco products were widely available in all markets, e-cigarettes were most often available in predominantly white neighborhoods.

    The study also looked at marketing tactics, such as putting cigarettes next to candy or having more outdoor advertising for menthol cigarettes, she said.

    Cigarettes were next to candy in 5 percent of stores in white neighborhoods compared to 42 percent in African-American neighborhoods.

    “Tobacco companies use price promotions, for one, such as discounts and multi-pack coupons and giveaways such as T-shirts, lighters and other little trinkets, even utilizing candy as a use of advertisements to get the youngsters to buy tobacco products,” said Nwabuzor, who is also co-chair at the Wisconsin African-American Tobacco Prevention Network.

    Laestadius said people that are more exposed to tobacco in stores as children are more likely to start smoking as adolescents. It’s also harder for adults to quit smoking when they’re confronted with so much advertising to the contrary.

    “There’s a whole real lifespan effect of this advertising,” she said.

    The study was developed using a method developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Cancer Institute. The Standardized Tobacco Assessment for Retail Settings method involves researchers and volunteers conducting store audits to look at factors like the cost of cigarettes, where they’re placed and what the advertising looks like.

    Laestadius said even though cities such as Chicago have banned the sale of flavored tobacco, including menthol, within 500 feet of schools, that likely won’t happen in Wisconsin. That’s because of state law that “preempts local tobacco control policies related to advertising, licensing and youth access,” the report states.

    Similar studies have been conducted in other large U.S. cities, but this is the first conducted in Milwaukee, Laestadius said.

  • CDC: Wisconsin Parents Opt Out Of Vaccinations At Higher Than Average Rate

    The number of Wisconsin kindergartners exempted from vaccinations is well above the national median, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    Across much of the country, just over 2 percent of kindergartners go without vaccinations, but in Wisconsin, that number reaches just over 5 percent, the report says.

    While numbers that high are surprising, it’s not time to panic, said Dr. Joseph McBride, a physician specializing in infectious diseases at the UW Health.

    “Usually, under the … 90 to 95 percent is when we start to worry,” he said. “Certainly, once we dip below 90 percent, that’s when a big concern happens … but there certainly are areas for improvement.”

    In Wisconsin, parents can exempt their children from vaccinations for medical, religious or personal reasons. In states with the highest rates of vaccination — like California, West Virginia and Mississippi — religious and personal reasons aren’t considered grounds for exemption.

    The vast majority of exemptions in Wisconsin come from personal and religious reasons, McBride said.

    “Well over 90 percent of the exemptions fall under this personal decision not to get the vaccine,” he said. “And that is just really too high for our overall herd immunity and our health.”

    Of the 66,000 children that entered kindergarten in Wisconsin last year, just over 160 were for medical reasons, which encompasses a variety of medical problems like immune deficiencies, chemotherapy or allergies to vaccines, McBride said.

    “They’re the ones most at risk of the if the non-vaccination rate goes up,” he said. “And when those numbers dip, that’s when we really see the problems, not just for the population, but especially in these compromised hosts.”

    Physicians sometimes get caught up in the benefits of vaccines, McBride said, but they could do more to help people understand the importance of vaccinations and listen to their concerns.

    “When there is a problem like pain or a small fever (after a vaccination) a lot of people get suspicious and say this is not what the doctor said,” he said. “As physicians need to have frank conversations with families to really show that the vast majority of people should be getting vaccines.”

    Wisconsin’s vaccination rates have remained constant over the last few years, McBride said. And without changes in legislation or public health policies, he doesn’t foresee changes.

  • A Look At Vaccinations In Wisconsin

    A new report from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention shows the number of kindergartners in Wisconsin being exempted from vaccinations are well above the national median. We talk to a physician who specializes in infectious diseases about the impact to public health.

  • Tobacco Marketing In Milwaukee's Minority Neighborhoods

    A new study from the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee’s Zilber School of Public Health shows big differences in the availability and marketing of tobacco in Milwaukee’s black and Latino neighborhoods when compared to its white counterparts. We break down the findings with one of the study’s authors and a representative from the Wisconsin African American Tobacco Prevention Network and the American Heart Association.

  • What To Do About The U.S. Postal Service?

    The United States Postal Service wants to hike the cost of Forever stamps by a nickel to help bolster falling revenues. It’s also considering raising the price of a package delivery program used by Amazon. We discuss the challenges facing the USPS and what its options are for dealing with them.

Episode Credits

  • Rob Ferrett Host
  • Rachael Vasquez Producer
  • Bill Martens Producer
  • Linnea Laestadius Guest
  • Oby Nwabuzor Guest
  • Dr. Joseph McBride Guest
  • Rick Geddes Guest

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