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January 9, 2020

Analysis of the vapor industry in Wisconsin, including economic data, state health department findings on vaping-related lung illnesses, youth e-cigarette use, tobacco retail compliance checks, and state funding dedicated to tobacco control programs.

PTS-Wisconsin: News

Since their introduction to the U.S. market in 2007, e-cigarettes and vaping devices—tobacco harm reduction products that are 95 percent safer than combustible cigarettes—have helped more than three million American adults quit smoking.

1. Economic Impact
According to the Vapor Technology Association, in 2018, the industry created 1,418 direct vaping-related jobs, including manufacturing, retail, and wholesale jobs in Wisconsin, which generated $43 million in wages alone.[1] Moreover, the industry has created hundreds of secondary jobs in the Badger State, bringing the total economic impact in 2018 to $363 million. In the same year, Wisconsin received more than $18 million in state taxes attributable to the vaping industry. These figures do not include sales in convenience stores, which sell vapor products including disposables and prefilled cartridges. In 2016, sales of these products in Wisconsin eclipsed $11.6 million.[2]

2. State Health Department Data
As of January 9, 2020, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (WDHS) has reported 103 confirmed and probable cases of vaping-related lung illnesses.[3] WDHS was one of the first health departments to report on the outbreak, and noted in August 2019, that 89 percent of patients reported vaping tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).[4] Despite earlier reports, WDHS does not continue to provide specific case information including gender, age, and the percent of substances vaped. The Heartland Institute gives WDHS a grade of B- for information available on vaping-related lung illnesses.

3. More Information Needed
The most recent report on youth e-cigarette use in Wisconsin is from the 2017 Wisconsin Youth Risk Behavior Survey.[5] According to the results, in 2017, 11.6 percent of Wisconsin high school students reported vaping at least once, in the 30 days prior to the survey. Only 2.1 percent of high school students reported vaping daily. More data is needed to understand the effects of public health campaigns on youth e-cigarette use.  

4. Youth Sales Miniscule
From January 1, 2018 to September 30, 2019, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) administered 5,403 tobacco age compliance inspections in Wisconsin, in which the agency used a minor in an attempt to purchase tobacco products.[6] Of those, 1,037 or 19 percent, resulted in a sale to a minor. Of the violations, 276 (26 percent of violations and 5 percent of all compliance checks) involved the sale of e-cigarettes or vaping devices. The number of violations involving sales of cigars and cigarettes were 348 and 376, respectively, during the same period.

5. Misspent Money
In 2019, Wisconsin received an estimated $757.8 million in tobacco taxes and tobacco settlement payments. In the same year, the state spent only $5.3 million, or less than 1 percent, on funding tobacco control programs, including education and prevention.[7] The lack of funding is notable in the state’s telephone quit line, of which Wisconsin invests only $1.43 per smoker, lower than the national average of $2.21.

Policy Solution
Electronic cigarettes and vaping devices have proven to be tremendous tobacco harm reduction tools, helping many smokers transition away from combustible cigarettes. Despite recent fearmongering, their use is significantly safer than traditional cigarettes, as noted by numerous public health groups including the Royal College of Physicians,[8] Public Health England,[9] and the American Cancer Society.[10] Rather than restricting their use, and undoubtedly reducing public health gains and millions of dollars in economic output, lawmakers should dedicate existing tobacco funds on programs that actually reduce youth use.

Key Points:

1. Wisconsin’s vaping industry provided more than $363 million in economic activity in 2018 while generating 1,418 direct vaping-related jobs. Sales of disposables and prefilled cartridges in Wisconsin exceeded $11.6 million in 2016.

2. As of January 9, 2020, WDHS has reported 103 confirmed and probable cases of vaping-related lung illness. WDHS notes the role of THC in the outbreak, but does not provide thorough data. WDHS earns a B- for its reporting on vaping-related lung illnesses.

3. In 2017, 2.1 percent of Wisconsin high school students reported daily use of vapor products. More data is needed.  

4. Only 5 percent of FDA retail compliance checks resulted in sales of e-cigarettes to minors from January 1, 2018 to September 30, 2019.

5. Wisconsin spends very little on tobacco prevention. In 2019, Wisconsin dedicated only $5.3 million on tobacco control, or less than 1 percent of what the state received in tobacco settlement payments and taxes.


[1] Vapor Technology Association, “The Economic Impact of the Vapor Industry WISCONSIN,” 2019,

[2] Teresa W. Wang et al., “National and State-Specific Unit Sales and Prices for Electronic Cigarettes, United States, 2012-2016,” Preventing Chronic Disease, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, August 2, 2018,

[3] Wisconsin Department of Health Services, “Severe Lung Disease Among People who Reported Vaping,” January 9, 2020, Accessed January 9, 2020.

[4] Wisconsin Department of Health Services, “Majority of Wisconsin Lung Disease Patients Who Reported Vaping Cite THC Products,” August 29, 2019,

[5] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Wisconsin, High School Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 2017,” 2017,

[6] U.S. Food and Drug Administration, “Compliance Check Inspections of Tobacco Product Retailers,” September 30, 2019,

[7] Truth Initiative, “Tobacco use in Wisconsin,” June 28, 2019,

[8] Royal College of Physicians, Nicotine without Smoke: Tobacco Harm Reduction, April 2016,

[9] A. McNeill et al., “Evidence review of e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products 2018,” Public Health England, February 2018,

[10] The American Cancer Society, “What Do We Know About E-Cigarettes?” June 19, 2019,

For more information, please refer to:

Tobacco Harm Reduction 101: A Guidebook for Policymakers
This booklet from The Heartland Institute aims to inform key stakeholders on the much-needed information on the benefits of electronic cigarettes and vaping devices. Tobacco Harm Reduction 101 details the history of e-cigarettes, including regulatory actions on these products. The booklet also explains the role of nicotine, addresses tax policy and debunks many of the myths associated with e-cigarettes, including assertions about “popcorn lung,” formaldehyde, and the so-called youth vaping epidemic.

PTS-Wisconsin: Text
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