American Heart Association - You’re the Cure

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Research & Advocacy = Results

In the last decade, U.S. hospitalization and death rates for heart disease and stroke have dropped significantly!  That means our research and your advocacy are paying off!  Let's keep it going to reach the American Heart Association’s 2020 goal — to improve the heart health of all Americans by 20 percent while reducing deaths from cardiovascular diseases and stroke by 20 percent by 2020.  Learn more here:

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Cinny Kittle, West Virginia

Cinny Kittle West Virginia

To our You're the Cure advocates, August means Congressional August Recess meetings. In West Virginia, that often means Cinny Kittle will be busier than usual speaking out for improved health, and this August was no exception.

On August 4th, Cinny joined WV Government Relations Director, Christine Compton, in delivering "lunch" to Congressman Nick Rahall's Washington, DC office--a lunch sack filled with puzzle pieces that represent a healthy school meal. The message? Support the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act.

As the Director of Health Improvement Initiatives at the West Virginia Hospital Association for the past 17 years, Cinny works on various projects to positively impact the lives of West Virginians. In addition, she is the Director of the Tobacco-Free WV Coalition, the co-founder and director of the WV Breastfeeding Alliance, she serves of the steering committee for the WV Perinatal Partnership and founded the Day One program to help get newborn babies off to their best start.

Cinny is committed to improving the health of our fellow Mountaineers. She is a strong advocate for public health and a terrific asset to the groups she collaborates with on a regular basis. With her busy schedule and many commitments, we are fortunate to have her as a passionate You're the Cure advocate and outstanding member of the American Heart Association’s Advocacy Committee. Thank you, Cinny, for all you to do improve the health of West Virginia!

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Kudos to Albany County!

Albany County Legislators just passed a ban on the sale of tobacco in pharmacies...Yup, many pharmacies still sell tobacco!  You wouldn't see tobacco sold at the doctor's office and you shouldn't see them when filling up your prescription.   If signed by County Executive McCoy, it will be the first law of its kind in New York!  Way to go Albany County!!

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RI’s Tobacco Settlement Refinance is Now Toxic Debt

Very interesting piece from GOLOCALProv News. ZERO dollars devoted to tobacco cessation & prevention, and now RI faces $2.8 billion in debt on capital appreciation tobacco bonds due in 2052. Tobacco Free RI weighs in on the latest development in this shameful saga…





RI’s Tobacco Settlement Refinance is Now Toxic Debt

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Kate Nagle, GoLocal Contributor

Rhode Island's effort to balance the state budget in 2002 and 2007 from tobacco settlement money may be blowing up into toxic debt to the state.

In a report issued by ProPublica -- "How Wall Street Tobacco Deals Left States With Billions in Toxic Debt" -- Rhode Island is now facing $2.8 billion in debt on capital appreciation tobacco bonds due in 2052, a revelation that comes nearly sixteen years following the landmark United States tobacco settlement intended to combat the adverse impacts of smoking.

Rhode Island recently announced a plan to buy out some holders of $197 million of the capital appreciation bonds (CABs) it sold in 2007, which would take $700 million off the $2.8 billion and allow for the refinancing of older tobacco bonds, but Oppenheimer is suing to stop the deal, as reported in Bloomberg and multiple news outlets on August 5.

Moreover, of the $51 million in settlement money Rhode Island received in 2014 (100% of which is pledged to repay the bonds), the state spent less than 1% of that amount on smoking prevention programs, according to the same ProPublica report.

"We're investing just $388,000 in the state smoking prevention program in 2014.  The CDC recommended we spend $15 million," said Karina Holyoak Wood, Director of Tobacco Free Rhode Island.  "Smoking costs Rhode Island close to $870 million in economic costs each year, and every year 1,600 Rhode islanders die from tobacco use, and thousands more suffer expensive and debilitating illnesses."

"We had that money," Holyoak Wood of the landmark tobacco settlement. "I would say it's shameful that the General Assembly and the Governors back then plugged deficits as one time fixes -- now there are even greater consequences than we realized."

Margaret Kane, who was with the Rhode Island chapter of the American Lung Association at the time of the settlement and opposed the state tobacco bonds, and is now with Operation Clean Government, said she was shocked at the level of the state's refinanced debt.

"I would have though of something like that could happen, but not to this extent," said Kane. "Holy crap."

States' New Realities

Cezary Podkul, author of Pro-Publica's state-by-state report, shows that a number of other states find themselves in the same predicament as Rhode Island, having utilized capital appreciation bonds -- "high-risk debt that squeezed out a few extra dollars for the governments but promised massive balloon payments, some in the billions, down the road."

"They amount to only a $3 billion sliver of the approximately $36 billion in tobacco bonds outstanding, according to a review of bond documents and Thomson Reuters data. But the nine states, three territories, District of Columbia and several counties that issued them have promised a whopping $64 billion to pay them off," writes Podkul.

"Just as mortgage lenders bet that home prices would keep rising, the tobacco deals relied on optimistic predictions of how much Americans would smoke," Podkul continued.  "Forecasters rightly saw that cigarette sales would continue to decline, but now the yearly drop — about 3 to 3.5 percent — is nearly double what was cooked into the deals."

URI Distinguished Professor of Business Edward Mazze offered a historical perspective of how Rhode Island came to this juncture.

"Rhode Island took its share of the tobacco settlement upfront in cash to balance the state's budget. Capital Appreciation Bonds (also known as tobacco bonds in this situation) were then issued by the state to private investors so that taxpayers would not be affected if and when tobacco money fell short in the future because of a decline in cigarette sales. Investors were promised huge payouts. This is a high-risk debt with a large balloon payment in the future to be repaid with settlement dollars and not tax dollars," said Mazze.  "These bonds are difficult and costly to sell.  One out of every three dollars coming in under the settlement goes to investors. Rhode Island recently presented a plan, which will not happen because of a lawsuit, to buy out some bond holders and refinance older tobacco bonds at better interest rates."

Mazze continued, "Even though most of the payments are not due for many years into the future, if past history is an indication of the future, Rhode Island will have a difficult time filling the gap between what it expects to continue to collect under the settlement and what it owes investors. What ever is collected in the future will have to be used to pay off the bonds. This means less tobacco funds available to support other government programs in the budget. This has a significant impact on balancing future state budgets. An example of poor governmental leadership when it comes to fiscal matters - spend now and don't worry about tomorrow."

Rhode Island's Failing Grade

In January, Rhode Island received an "F" from the American Lung Association in its "State of Tobacco Control 2014" report card.

"The good news is that Rhode Island earned an “A” grade for our smoke free air and our high cigarette tax, which prevents youth smoking and motivates adults to quit," said Holyoak Wood. "The bad news is that Rhode Island earned an “F” for being one of the bottom ten states in the country for tobacco control and prevention spending."

"When tobacco companies agreed to turn over this money to compensate the victims who were mislead about the deadly effects of smoking, that's what the states should have spent the money on," said Holyoak Wood.  "Now we're living with the legacy today of leaders who didn't use that money to help people with their battles against lung cancer, or provide cheaper coverage -- we were meant to put that money into prevention, which is the best strategy.

"It's broken promises -- that's how I see it as well.  Broken promises of political leaders to the people.  This money was so hard fought, it was such an enormous victory -- the biggest settlement ever from corporations to the people of the country, it was a wonderful thing that the states' Attorney Generals managed to win.  And Wall Street came along and made them great offers, and look what's happened."

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What is all the fuss about e-cigarettes?

Written by Erica Phung, Sr. Government Relations Director, Southern California

Have you been to the movies lately or out at a café and noticed someone puffing on an e-cigarette and wondered – just what are those things?  Who’s making them? And what’s in that cloud coming out the end of it?

Since the Office of the Surgeon General released the first report on the dangers of tobacco use, smoking rates declined significantly across the United States.  As such, lower smoking rates have forced tobacco companies to seek new ways to appeal to a new generation of smokers, including through the manufacturing and marketing of e-cigarettes.

E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices that have cartridges or refillable tanks that contain a liquid mixture primarily comprised of propylene glycol and/or glycerol and nicotine, as well as other flavors or chemicals.  Proponents argue they don’t expose the user to the same harmful toxins found in conventional cigarette smoke and could help people quit smoking.  However, the devices have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for smoking cessation or been proven to be safe.  

The AHA has concerns that e-cigarettes could fuel and promote nicotine addiction, and that their acceptance has the potential of re-normalizing smoking, especially amongst youth who are drawn to candy flavors.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that youth rates of e-cigarette use has skyrocketed, doubling from 2011 to 2012. The CDC estimated that by 2012, 1.78 million youth had tried e-cigarettes.  The AHA also has concerns of second or third hand exposure to e-cigarette vapor and constituents. 

Because of these concerns, the AHA believes that e-cigarettes should be included in existing smoke-free laws, taxed like conventional tobacco products and be included in laws that prohibit the sale and marketing of tobacco to minors.  We also promote educating health care workers, so they can adequately counsel their patients regarding comprehensive tobacco cessation strategies.  Further research and surveillance is also needed regarding the short, medium and long-term physiological effects of e-cigarettes.

In California, our AHA You’re the Cure Advocates have helped pass e-cigarette legislation in Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego and numerous other cities.  Does your city include e-cigarettes in its smoke-free laws? If not – contact us to help advocate for change! All Californians deserve to breathe clean air.

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We've Come So Far Because of You, South Carolina!

The 2014 Legislative Session in South Carolina was a lively one, allowing us to advance some vital pieces of legislation while providing us room to continue in 2015.

Senate Bill 1094: School Nutrition Guidelines
This would have required stronger nutritional guidelines for competitive foods sold on school grounds during afterschool hours. Competitive foods include foods sold in vending machines, snack stores, and a la carte items in school cafeterias. The bill received a favorable report with amendments from the Senate Education Committee, but no action was taken by the full Senate once the bill was placed on the Senate calendar.

Senate Bill 160: CPR in Schools
This would have required all high school students to be proficient in hands-only CPR and AED awareness as part of the already required high school health education class. The bill received a favorable report with amendments from the House Education Committee, but no action was taken by the full House once the bill was placed on the House calendar.

This issue continues to be vital to residents of South Carolina, even during the summer months when the legislature is not in session. Please email your elected officials today and let them know you support CPR in schools.

Tobacco Control Funding
We advocated during the appropriations process for an additional $8 million in tobacco control funding from the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement. We were able to protect the $5 million in funding for tobacco control received yearly from cigarette tax revenue.

Smoke-Free Victories
Three more communities across the state adopted smoke-free ordinances, joining 55 other South Carolina municipalities, for a total of 58 cities/counties, covering 39% of the state's population!

As part of the You're the Cure team, you've helped us make GREAT strides this year toward improving the lives of South Carolina citizens. We will be revisiting each of these issues in 2015 and have no doubt we will see major victories in the Palmetto State!

From the bottom of our hearts, thank you for all you do. You are our hero.

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We've Come So Far, North Carolina!

On August 7th, Governor McCrory signed the state budget. This year's short session has been a lively one with some surprises including that the Legislature still has not concluded session and that we expect the Legislature will return for work this November on Medicaid Reform. As always, we will monitor all the legislative activities and keep you informed. During the active session, we made strides toward our policy issues and we are making plans to build strong support for our legislative issues in 2015. Thank you for your advocacy this year!

Healthy Food Financing/Food Deserts
This year, we have been working to educate lawmakers about the importance of improving access to healthy foods and eliminating food deserts in our state. While we weren't successful in securing funding for improving healthy food access through a healthy corner store or healthy food financing initiative, we did educate many lawmakers. Our work must continue and we need your help, and your voice, to continue the conversation with your elected officials this summer to remind them how important this issue is to the state of North Carolina. Email your lawmakers today and let them know you support funding healthy corner store and healthy food financing initiatives for our neighbors across the state.

Stroke Advisory Council (SAC)
We supported a $50,000 funding request for the Stroke Advisory Council as recommended by the Justus-Warren Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention (JWHDSP) Task Force. Unfortunately, we were not successful in securing this funding. We did successfully work in collaboration with the JWHDSP Task Force to engage the General Assembly and the Governor in Hypertension Awareness Day on May 21st.

Tobacco Prevention Funding
In 2014, we sought $1,000,000 in recurring funding for tobacco use prevention programs, as well as a separate $200,000 in funding for the You Quit, Two Quit program to help pregnant women quit smoking. With money tight, we were not successful in increasing funding for tobacco control. Lawmakers worked hard to secure the You Quit, Two Quit funding, but efforts were not successful. Instead, they added You Quit, Two Quit to the list of programs that can compete competitively for grant funding.

Our work must continue if we are to improve the lives of our neighbors, our children, and ourselves. Thank you for using your voice. Together we will build healthier lives, free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke. Life is why.

Click here to urge your lawmakers to eliminate North Carolina's food deserts in 2015.

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Judge upholds Indianapolis smoke-free air law

The smoke-free air law in Indianapolis was upheld in court recently.

On July 28th, a Marion County Superior Court judge upheld the smoke-free ordinance, that went into effect in 2012. It was passed by the Indianapolis-Marion County City-County Council. 

Click here to read the rest of the story and to see a statement from Katy Ellis Hilts, chair of Smoke Free Indy.

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Rhode Island Has Second Lowest Youth Smoking Rate in the Nation

The Rhode Island Department of Health recently announced that the Ocean State has the SECOND LOWEST youth smoking rate in the nation.  The finding is based on national survey data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  The results show that Rhode Island’s youth smoking rate dropped from 11% in 2011 to 8% currently (second only to the state of Utah). 

This good news is in large part due to the strong tobacco control laws that Rhode Island has on the books – laws that we fought for!  These proven policies include our comprehensive smoke-free air law and high cigarette tax.  But our work is not over – an 8% youth smoking rate is still too high and we won’t stop until that number is zero!   

Click here to view the Department of Health’s press release:

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A Heartfelt Thanks

Thank YOU! Because of all your hard work we have been able to able to make sure that all babies born are screened for congenital heart defects, we made sure to make sure that kids don’t start smoking and adults quit by increasing the tobacco tax, we made sure that our cities and towns are thinking about walking biking when they construct new roads or fix existing roads by including important language on complete streets in the Transportation Bond Bill and we made sure that our communities have access to fresh fruits and vegetables by including fresh food financing in the Environment Bond Bill. All of these efforts will help make our Commonwealth more heart-healthy and stroke-free! 

Even with all this great work, we still have so much more to do. As the legislators start to wind down we want to make sure they still take action on a few critical bills this fall. Please continue to act on all alerts to ask your legislators for support on key pieces of legislation that would require all coaches to learn CPR, improving the access to quality, age-appropriate physical education for all students and requiring healthy options in vending machines in State Buildings. 

I know that I ask a lot from you, but it truly makes a difference and I can’t thank you enough for your dedication and passion for the cause. Thank YOU for all YOU do.


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