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Our new anthem: life is why

School behavioral specialist Carla Leonard had her hand on her heart during the Pledge of Allegiance when a heart attack nearly killed her. Her doctor didn’t mince words with her family afterward: “If I didn’t have surgery, they should pick out a dress for my funeral,” she said. “Plain and simple.”

But Leonard wanted to live — to see her daughter graduate from high school — so after surgery she started on a new path that continues today. She kicked her soda habit, started visiting her doctor regularly and got healthy enough to experience many important milestones in her life.

Leonard exemplifies the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association’s new brand tagline, “Life Is Why.” The phrase, which began appearing with the logo on Heart.org on Aug. 1, is much more than a slogan. It’s the singular idea that stands behind all the lifesaving work the AHA has carried out for 90  years – and it’s the very basic idea that people should be healthier so they can enjoy their lives more.

“The work we do matters,” American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown said. “It has mattered to my family and I’m sure it has mattered to your family. Life is why.”

(Please visit the site to view this video)

Brown’s grandfather had a blockage of his carotid artery in the early 1970s. During surgery, he suffered a stroke, and his life was never the same — nor was his family’s. He died a few years later after another stroke. “I missed my grandfather then and I continue to miss him today,” Brown said.

But she pointed out that scientific research and treatment guidelines have led to much better outcomes for many others in the decades that followed. One of those survivors is Brown’s sister, who is thriving despite two recent strokes. She received treatment at one of the AHA’s primary stroke centers, helping her working through rehabilitation and regain her life.

“My sister is why, my grandfather is why — and all of you are why,” Brown told the organization’s volunteers and staff when announcing the adaptation of “Life Is Why” as a focal point of the AHA’s brand.

The American Heart Association is the nation’s oldest and largest voluntary health organization dedicated to fighting heart disease and stroke — the two leading causes of death in the world. The AHA fights these diseases through a wide variety of tactics, yet “Life Is Why” can be attached to every facet of the organization’s work.

Life is why the AHA helps people eat healthier foods and get more active — among the many activities the organization has to help people live healthier lives.

Life is why Roni Noone decided to lose weight so she could enjoy her life with her family.

Noone, a 38-year-old Baltimore mom who struggled with her weight in her teens and 20s, has lost a total of 70 pounds because she wants to be there for those special moments with her family. She has joined a gym and even run a marathon – saying she didn’t want to set a poor health example for her sons Ryan, 9, and Evan, 3.

Roni Noone is motivated by the special moments with her family.

“Last year I took Ryan whitewater rafting, and it was really emotional for me. Now I’m doing all the things I got healthy for,” said Noone, a fitness blogger who’s also writing a book. “I want to run a half-marathon with him when he’s 18. And I want to be able to do all these things that I’m doing in my 30s when I’m in my 50s.”

Life is why the American Heart Association has funded more than $3.6 billion in heart disease and stroke research, more than any other organization outside the federal government. Life is why the association works to develop treatment guidelines that help healthcare providers follow scientifically proven treatment standards.

Life is why the AHA is the nation’s leader in CPR training and science, and why the AHA has helped pass many laws and policies that have improved the public health. In fact, now that 17 states have passed laws requiring CPR as a high school graduation requirement, more than 1 million seniors will leave school every year with this lifesaving skill.

Leonard, 52, has gone on to be an AHA advocate for CPR in schools and screenings to detect heart defects in newborns. And she did get to see her daughter Yasmine finish high school, just one of many milestones she has experienced since her surgery eight years ago.

“The highlight of them all was when I heard that my child had used my life-and-death experience to write her entrance essay for college,” she said. “I want to be able to look back on my life and say that I did not waste the second chance I was given.”

And as 13-year-old Natalia Bascunan of Nutley, New Jersey, will attest, loved ones and special moments are the most important illustration of Life Is Why. Natalia made the Little League all-star team years after facing two open-heart surgeries for a heart defect.

“They loved it because she was the only girl in the state on an all-boys team,” said Natalia’s mom, Roe Corsi. “When they found out she had a heart condition, they loved her even more.”

Another person who has embraced life’s special moments thanks to better health is Bernie Dennis, a longtime volunteer with the AHA who is now the chairman of the board.

Dennis said he didn’t appreciate the risks he was taking with his health until he had three heart attacks in one month, followed by a quadruple bypass. While he recovered, he started realizing some of the things he’d taken for granted.

“I can remember the fact that I was sitting on my porch saying to myself, ‘this is the first time in my life I’ve appreciated the warmth of the sun in May,’” he said.

Getting healthier has meant Dennis has gone on to experience precious family time that he would’ve missed. A high school graduation. A wedding. Playing with his “two beautiful granddaughters.” And dressing up as Santa Claus at Christmas.

“There’s a choice you get to make about living or not living,” he said. “My wife’s hand gave me reason to live. My wonderful family gave me reason to live.”

Learn more at www.lifeiswhy.org 

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Speak Up for Tobacco Regulation

The Food and Drug Administration has proposed a new rule that would regulate all tobacco products, including cigars, electronic cigarettes, pipe tobacco, hookah tobacco, nicotine gels and dissolvables. This is a good step, as the FDA must have authority over these products to protect public health.

Among the new rule's requirements, manufacturers would have to disclose ingredient lists for their products and include warning labels on product packages and advertisements. It would ban the sale of these products to anyone under the age of 18, however, the rule does not go far enough to protect young people from the harms of tobacco.

As proposed, the rule does not prohibit the use of candy and fruit flavorings in these tobacco products. It also does not restrict marketing, despite a recent study showing a sharp increase in youth exposure to e-cigarette advertising in recent years. Candy and fruit flavorings and advertisements may account for the rapid rise in cigar and e-cigarette use by young people. These measures must be added.  

The public has until July 9th to submit comments on the proposed rule before it is finalized by the agency. You can tell FDA stronger standards are needed for all tobacco products. Add your voice today!

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Proposed Tobacco Rule a Good First Step...

...but stronger regulation is needed to keep e-cigarettes, flavored little cigars and other tobacco products out of the hands of young people, according to American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown. You can read her full statement here.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on April 24th released a proposed rule to regulate e-cigarettes, little cigars and other tobacco products. The rule would ban the sale of e-cigarettes to minors, require health warnings and require manufacturers to disclose product ingredients, among other requirements. You can read more about the proposed rule on the AHA blog

While acknowledging the long-awaited rule is a strong first step, Brown said " Our nation’s youth must be given a fighting chance to turn away from tobacco and nicotine addiction once and for all. In order to achieve that goal, the FDA must go beyond the regulations proposed today and stop the advertising, restrict the flavorings – including flavored cigars, which have replaced banned flavored cigarettes as a gateway for youth – and control the Internet sales, which can often be used to circumvent youth access restrictions."

The public will have until July 9th to provide comments on the proposed rule before it undergoes final changes by the agency. The American Heart Association is preparing detailed comments on how the regulations could be strengthened to protect the cardiovascular health of Americans. You're the Cure advocates- be on the lookout for an opportunity to submit your comments to the FDA soon.   

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New CDC Study on Poison Centers and E-cigarettes Reinforces Need for FDA Regulation

Washington, D.C., April 3, 2014 American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown made the following comments on the study released today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on the rise in e-cigarette calls to poison centers:

"The CDC’s latest study on e-cigarettes is in one word – disturbing. The rapid increase in calls to poison control centers for exposure to e-cigarette liquid, particularly among young children, points to a serious problem. New data such as this cries out for Food and Drug Administration oversight of these products.

With more than 51 percent of all reported e-cigarette poisonings involving children under the age of five, immediate action is needed to keep children from ingesting or coming into contact with these products. Manufacturers should disclose the ingredients and dangers of these products in clear and detailed warning labels, limit their use of fruit and candy flavors that appeal to children, and restrict the marketing and sale of e-cigarettes to youth.

E-cigarettes need to be regulated, researched and monitored closely. The American Heart Association urges the FDA to take prompt action to protect the public’s health and bring these products under its jurisdiction."

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On Kick Butts Day, Let's Commit to Making Tobacco History

American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown teamed up with Matthew Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, on a blog post for The Huffington Post this week.  Check out what they had to say about the importance of Kick Butts Day (March 19th) and the tobacco control goals our nation's leading public health and medical organizations are joining forces to achieve...

"As part of my job, I'm frequently on the go, traveling all across the country. I love interacting with people from coast to coast and seeing which trends are taking over which areas.

Sadly, no matter where I go, there's one constant: Kids who are smoking.

Long after their parents and grandparents learned of the serious health risks of tobacco products, young adults, teens -- and, even more frighteningly, pre-teens -- are still lighting up."   Read the full article.

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Spring Has Sprung and So Has Budget Season!

It’s that time of year again.  While we wait for the cherry blossoms to bloom in Washington, D.C., budget discussions are heating up between the White House and Capitol Hill. 

On March 4th, the President released his budget proposal for 2015 and now Members of Congress are working to establish their funding priorities to begin the appropriations process and eventually pass a budget.  And that’s where you come in! 

With tight economic times, we need to continue to make the case for heart disease and stroke research and prevention funding that helps drive innovation, cuts health care costs, improves the health of our workforce, protects the health of our youngest generations, and saves lives.  Basically, your lawmakers need to hear from you that the fight against our nation’s No. 1 and No. 4 killers, heart disease and stroke, must be prioritized. 

In addition to funding that would help communities support walking, biking, and recreation, and funding for nutrition programs that would improve access to healthy food and nutrition education, the President’s budget included two key issues that deserve a special note:

  • On the positive side, the budget included a public health ‘win-win’ by proposing an increase to the federal tobacco tax, which would help curb youth smoking rates, to pay for efforts to improve early childhood education, which includes nutrition and physical education for our youngest Americans. 
  • On the negative side, the budget proposed near level funding for the National Institutes of Health, which is disappointing for research-advocates who are continuing to push our nation’s lawmakers to restore significant cuts to the NIH that took place last spring.  As our AHA President Dr. Mariell Jessup said in a statement, “With a meager 1 percent increase over last year, President Obama’s proposed budget for the National Institutes of Health is utterly inadequate.”

But the President’s budget proposal isn’t the end of these decisions.  The work now shifts to Members of Congress to consider these proposals, set their priorities, and negotiate to pass a final budget.  In fact, right now, our legislators are submitting their funding priorities to leadership in the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate and we need your help to speak-up for heart disease and stroke research!  Will you take two minutes to send a quick message to Congress?  

Without us speaking up- loud and clear- for important funding increases to the NIH, we will see progress and innovation in the way we prevent, diagnose, and treat heart disease and stroke slip backward.  From the jobs it creates to the lives it saves, medical research must be made a priority in the U.S..  Speak-up today! 

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AHA Applauds CVS for Phasing Out Tobacco Products

Dallas, Feb. 5, 2014 — American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown issued the following statement on the decision by CVS Caremark to phase out tobacco sales:

“Smoking is the No. 1 cause of death in the U.S., killing 443,000 Americans and costing the nation $193 billion in healthcare expenses and lost productivity each year, according to a Surgeon General’s report released last month.

Today’s decision by CVS Caremark is an important step forward in reducing access to these deadly products, and we applaud their courage to put public health above profits.  We recognize that $2 billion in tobacco sales represents a significant sum for CVS Caremark, and that makes this decision even more admirable.

First use of cigarettes occurs by 18 years of age 87% of the time, and nearly all (98%) of first use is by 26 years of age.  There is no such thing as a ‘casual smoker’, as nicotine begins to addict immediately, and therefore removing the visibility and the availability of tobacco products from major retailers in an important step in preventing youth from ever having that first tobacco product.  Tobacco displays have a tremendous impact on our youth, with a direct corollary between exposure to tobacco marketing in stores and smoking initiation.   5.6 million young Americans who are alive today will die from smoking – unless there are more actions like this one today.

Many of our public health partners have joined us in our call for pharmacies to stop selling tobacco products, including the American Medical Association, the American Cancer Society and the American Lung Association. In fact, in 2010, the American Pharmacists Association urged pharmacies to stop selling tobacco and pushed state pharmacy boards to discontinue issuing and renewing licenses of pharmacies that sell these products.

The timing of the announcement today comes just weeks after the 50th anniversary of the historic first Surgeon General’s Report, which concluded that cigarette smoking causes lung cancer.  Since that 1964 report, evidence has linked smoking to diseases of nearly all the body’s organs.

Tobacco use persists as the leading preventable cause of heart disease and stroke in our country.  Indications of heart disease such as atherosclerosis, hypertension, increased tendency for blood clots, decrease of HDL (good) cholesterol as well as a decreased tolerance for exercise are all directly tied to tobacco use.  Inhaling cigarette smoke produces several effects that damage the cerebrovascular system, leading to stroke. In fact, the most recent Surgeon General’s report established more new links, including one between exposure to second-hand smoke and a 20 to 30 percent increased risk for stroke.

On the 50th anniversary of the first Surgeon General’s report, the American Heart Association stood alongside many public health partners in Washington, DC, and called for a new national commitment to end the tobacco epidemic for good.  We called for bold action to achieve three goals: 1) Reduce smoking rates, currently at about 18 percent, to less than 10 percent within 10 years; 2) protect all Americans from secondhand smoke within five years; and 3) ultimately eliminate the death and disease caused by tobacco.  Today’s action by CVS Caremark represents a positive step forward for this vision.

We call upon other tobacco retailers, in particular pharmacies that play a role in protecting the health of Americans, to follow the excellent example being set by CVS Caremark, and discontinue the sales of this deadly product.”

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Surgeon General’s Report Reinforces Urgent Need for Bold Action Against Tobacco

Washington, D.C., Jan. 17, 2014 — American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown issued the following comments today on the Surgeon General’s Report: The Health Consequences of Smoking — 50 Years of Progress:

“Over the last 50 years, more than 20 million Americans could have lived healthier and longer lives if they had never lit their first cigarette. Even more disturbing is the fact that every one of these deaths was entirely preventable.  The evidence that smoking kills is now even more overwhelming and undeniable.  We must take the bold and urgent actions necessary to wipe out the curse of tobacco forever.

The new Surgeon General’s report examines the terrible toll smoking has taken on our nation and provides a troubling breakdown of how those 20 million individuals lost their lives to addiction. One statistic stands out for our organization – about 7.8 million of the 20 million tragically died from cardiovascular and metabolic diseases. 

The report also points to something that never occurred to Americans back in the 1960s – just being in the same room with a smoker can cause you irreparable harm. Two and half million of those who died were non-smokers exposed to secondhand smoke.  Ongoing exposure, according to the report, can increase your risk of stroke by 20 to 30 percent. But smoke-free policies can result in a reduction of coronary events in people younger than 65.  More importantly, smokers who quit by age 40 can virtually eliminate their risk of heart disease.  Even if you give up smoking later in life, you can still dramatically reduce your risk. This new information gives a welcome boost to the American Heart Association’s efforts to pass smoke-free laws in all 50 states and increase resources to help people quit smoking.

Another alarming new statistic from the report is that 5.6 million young Americans who are alive today will die from smoking – unless we take action now.  It is shocking how little we employ the solutions that can help us avert more unnecessary deaths and end this epidemic once and for all. Combined interventions — such as mass media campaigns, well-funded state prevention and cessation programs, increased tobacco taxes, and smoke-free laws — reduce tobacco use among youth and adults. The association strongly supports all of these interventions. 

While the tobacco control movement has achieved astounding results in the past five decades, this report now estimates almost half a million Americans still die every year from smoking. Those individuals and the 20 million who died before them are a terrible loss. We hope the new Surgeon General’s report will finally prompt the few remaining skeptics to join the vast majority of Americans in the fight to make our nation 100 percent tobacco-free.”

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50th Anniversary

January 11th marks the 50th anniversary of U.S. Surgeon General Luther Terry's groundbreaking report on smoking and health, which first made it clear for Americans that smoking causes illness and death.

The American Heart Association is very proud to have played a role in the progress we've seen over the last 50 years. Thanks to the hard work of public health advocates like you, we've seen smoking rates cut in half, a significant reduction in exposure to secondhand smoke, resources made available to help smokers quit and to prevent our kids from picking up the habit.

Despite truly incredible progress in the fight against tobacco use, it remains the leading preventable cause of death in our country, killing 443,000 Americans each year. Clearly, we still have work to do.

The American Heart Association joined other leading public health and medical groups January 8th  to call for a renewed national commitment to ending the tobacco epidemic for good. At a press conference in Washington, DC, the groups laid out three bold new goals.

  • Reduce smoking rates, currently at about 18%, to less than 10% within 10 years.
  • Protect all Americans from secondhand smoke within 5 years.
  • Ultimately eliminate the death and disease caused by tobacco use.

American Heart Association President Mariell Jessup, M.D., said "In the half century that has passed since the landmark 1964 report, the American Heart Association's commitment to protecting the health of all Americans from the scourge of tobacco has never wavered. While we are proud of our accomplishments and the many lives saved, we cannot let our guard down for one minute when it comes to this public health epidemic. We must continue to fight at the federal, state, and local levels until we make America 100 percent tobacco free."

To learn more, check out this article just published in the Journal of the American Heart Association: "The 50th Anniversary of the US Surgeon General's Report on Tobacco: What We've Accomplished and Where We Go From Here"

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The 2013 State Legislative Wrap-Up is Here!

Today’s blog post is by Mark Schoeberl, the American Heart Association’s Executive Vice President of Advocacy and Health Quality

I am pleased to again this year present you with our annual report of state and local public policy progress. We take pride in the diligent efforts of our advocates, volunteers and staff who ensure that we remain focused on helping improve the cardiovascular health of all Americans.  As you read this report you will quickly realize that we saw unprecedented public policy success across the country during this last fiscal year.  The victories you will read about in the following pages have a direct and profound impact on our 2020 national goal: To improve the cardiovascular health of all Americans by 20 percent while reducing deaths from cardiovascular diseases and stroke by 20 percent.

As we review our 2012–2013 state and local public policy, we should be proud of our active advocacy presence in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.  We helped support the passage of state laws and local ordinances that impact heart disease and stroke risk factors as well as policies that further protect survivors of heart disease or stroke.  Our significant public policy achievements, which you can read about below, include public policies enacted in fifteen states that will assure all newborns are screened for critical congenital heart disease before going home for the first time. Seven states enacted new laws that will assure all students have been CPR trained before they graduate from high school. In the area of encouraging physical activity, two states passed shared use laws that will expand opportunities for physical activity in communities across those states. Six states enacted policy that will strengthen their stroke systems of care and six states moved to strengthen their STEMI systems of care.  Four states were successful in increasing their public funding for heart disease and stroke at the state level. Tobacco tax increases occurred in three states and two states moved to strengthen their smokefree air laws.

On behalf of the thousands of You’re the Cure advocates, association volunteers, donors, and staff who have made these successes possible, it is my pleasure to present to you this annual report of state and local advocacy accomplishments.  Together, we are the architects of a healthier future.

 

 Click on the image to view the 2013 State Legislative Wrap-Up!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PS- Stay tuned next month for a video highlighting these successes!  We’ll need your help to share it with friends, family, colleagues, and neighbors to demonstrate the progress we’re making toward healthier communities and healthier lives through public policy changes… and to encourage others to join the You’re the Cure movement too!

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1,000 Strong

More than 750 advocates just like you have already sent their letters requesting the Food and Drug administration eliminate menthol flavoring in cigarettes. Now we need you to help us stand 1,000 strong before the Nov. 22nd deadline.

Smoking remains the leading cause of preventable death in our country and is a significant risk factor for heart disease and stroke. And now, there is compelling scientific evidence that menthol in cigarettes leads more young people to take up smoking, increases nicotine addiction and makes it more difficult for smokers to quit.

Will you help us stand 1,000 strong as we tell the Food and Drug Adminstration to act now to prohibit the use of menthol in cigarettes?

 

 

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AHA Applauds NYC's Fight Against Youth Tobacco Use

Washington, D.C., Oct. 31, 2013 —The American Heart Association applauds New York City for continuing to be a national leader in reducing tobacco use by passing bills that will discourage young people from smoking and encourage more smokers to quit.

“We are proud of the city’s leadership for passing sensible legislation that will establish a minimum price for cigarettes and little cigars, stop industry discounting gimmicks and prohibit the sale of tobacco products to anyone under the age of 21,” said American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown. “These measures that the American Heart Association advocated for will go a long way toward reducing tobacco use, the number one preventable cause of heart disease.”

The first bill passed Wednesday will prohibit the sale of tobacco to anyone under 21. Since most smokers start smoking before that age, this bill should help reduce the number of youth who take up this deadly habit.

The second bill will establish a minimum price on tobacco products. New York City leads the nation with the highest combined state and local tax on tobacco products. High tobacco taxes are proven to reduce tobacco use. In recent years the tobacco industry has worked to undercut the high tax by offering coupons and other product discounts to smokers. This practice will no longer be allowed in New York City.

Brown praised the city leaders for their commitment to public health, including Mayor Michael Bloomberg, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, and City Health Commissioner Dr. Tom Farley.

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Tell FDA Officials: Menthol Must Go

Smoking remains the leading cause of preventable death in our country and is a significant risk factor for heart disease and stroke. And now, there is compelling scientific evidence that menthol in cigarettes leads more young people to take up smoking, increases nicotine addiction and makes it more difficult for smokers to quit.

As the Food and Drug Administration considers if and how they should regulate menthol in cigarettes, will you help send them a clear message?

They must act quickly to remove menthol cigarettes from the market. Any delay will result in more lives lost.

The tobacco industry should not be allowed to further endanger the lives of young people and minority populations, those most likely to use menthol cigarettes.

The negative impact on our nation's health is clear. Ask FDA officials to act swiftly to prohibit the use of menthol in cigarettes.

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New CDC Study Confirms Need for State Smoke-Free Laws

Washington, D.C., Aug. 1, 2013 American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown issued the following comments today on the CDC Foundation’s new study released in the journal Preventing Chronic Disease, which found smoke-free laws in nine states had no impact on restaurant and bar revenue:

“This new study proves what we have known for years — strong smoke-free laws have no negative impact on restaurant and bar revenue. While many studies have had similar results, this study is the most comprehensive ever done.

Given this compelling evidence, there is simply no excuse for elected officials not to act. It is time for all states to pass comprehensive smoke-free laws to protect workers and the public from secondhand smoke.

The American Heart Association has long supported smoke-free laws because exposure to secondhand smoke increases the risk of heart disease and stroke. Every year, secondhand smoke is estimated to cause between 21,000 and 75,000 deaths from heart disease and between 38,000 and 129,000 heart attacks.  Long-term exposure to secondhand smoke, in a home or in the workplace, is associated with a 25 to 30 percent increased risk for coronary heart disease in adult nonsmokers. Even short-term exposure can increase the risk of heart attacks among non-smokers.

Despite the health hazards of secondhand smoke exposure, many cities and states have still not passed strong smoke-free laws. One of the most common arguments against these laws is the fear that businesses will see a drop in revenue. This study confirms that not only are smoke-free laws good for health, they will not hurt business. It is time for action.”

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AHA Responds to FDA Report on Menthol Cigarettes

Washington, D.C. July 23, 2013 – American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown issued the following comments today on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) new evaluation on the use of menthol in cigarettes, and the agency’s request for input on whether regulatory action on this tobacco product is “appropriate:”

“Today’s announcement by the FDA once again makes it clear that there is an urgent need to prohibit menthol cigarettes. It’s been over two years since the agency’s Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee found that menthol cigarettes have an adverse impact on public health by inviting experimentation by the young, increasing the number of youth who become regular smokers, and making it harder to quit. The new independent assessment by the FDA came to same conclusion. What more evidence do we need? We can waste no more time.  We must move ahead as quickly as possible to prohibit menthol cigarettes.

“Every day, the 1,200 Americans who die from tobacco-related diseases are replaced by two smokers under the age of 26. Menthol cigarettes are one of many products peddled to our nation’s youth with the intent of addicting a new generation. If the FDA takes menthol cigarettes off the shelves, we will remove one product that lures young people into a deadly habit and sets them on the road to early hardening of the arteries and coronary artery disease in adulthood.

“Earlier this year, the American Heart Association and several other organizations joined forces to submit a citizen petition to the FDA. The petition requested that the agency adopt standards that would restrict the addition of menthol to cigarettes. We will provide more detailed information in response to the FDA’s latest questions on these products so we can help prevent more Americans from taking up smoking because they like the taste of menthol cigarettes.”

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Praise for the HeLP America Act

American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown issued the following statement today on “The Healthier Lifestyles and Prevention America (HeLP America) Act,” introduced by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA):

“Sen. Tom Harkin’s tireless efforts on behalf of prevention are greatly appreciated by the American Heart Association and we enthusiastically support the HeLP America Act.

Prevention is one of the strongest tools we have in the fight against heart disease and stroke.  Investing in programs that propel the use of prevention measures such as increased physical activity, improved nutrition and reduced tobacco use will help Americans adopt healthier habits, and ultimately drive down our nation’s rising health care costs. The HeLP America Act accomplishes this by expanding prevention efforts in schools, communities, and workplaces.

For example, provisions included in this legislation will help make physical education a priority for our school children, a goal we believe is a strong way to help attack our childhood obesity problem and develop well-educated and healthy students.  Other initiatives in the bill, such as a requirement for a science-based update to the Physical Activity Guidelines every 10 years, will also help Americans of all ages boost their levels of physical activity.

While the nation’s nutrition policy has advanced in the past few years, there is still work to be done. We are also glad to see many other positive nutrition provisions in the bill, including an expansion of the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, an initiative which helps low-income children have access to these foods, help them learn about healthy habits, and help them make informed nutrition choices.  The legislation also goes a long way to close existing loopholes on tobacco taxes and increase Medicaid coverage to help smokers break the chains of their addiction.

We look forward to working with Sen. Harkin and our partners to advocate for this legislation and improve the public health of all Americans. ”

Learn more about the HeLP America Act.

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“Hello! My name is ____”

It’s time to welcome the 113th Congress!  We all know the best welcomes are personal, so we’re asking You’re the Cure advocates to introduce themselves to their members of Congress by recording a video and uploading it to Facebook.

We’re calling it the “Hello, my name is ____” campaign.  We want your elected officials to know you and your heart or stroke story- and to remember it when they vote this year.  When you record your video, consider using this script (and try to keep your video to about 60 seconds!):

 “Hi my name is [your name] from [City, State].”

 “I am passionate about policy changes that can help improve cardiovascular health in this country because [tell your story].”

 “Now that I’ve shared my story with you, I have one question for you: Will you remember me when you vote this year?”

Watch an example from our National Grassroots Director, Clarissa Garcia:

(Please visit the site to view this video)

Once you’ve recorded your video on your phone, tablet, or camera, save it and upload it to Facebook. To upload your video to Facebook:

  1. Scroll to the top of your Facebook homepage where your status box is.
  2. Click Add Photos/Video.
  3. Click Upload Photos/Video.
  4. Select your video from the location you saved it to on your computer or mobile device.
  5. Write a post for your video.  Make sure to ‘tag’ your Representative and Senators and our American Heart Association: You’re the Cure page!  We recommend using this caption:

Hello, @[Enter your lawmakers names starting with an “@” symbol to tag their accounts], my name is [your name], and I’m an @[American Heart Association: You’re the Cure] advocate. Here’s why I support heart-healthy and stroke-smart public policies. Will you remember me when you vote this year?

(Note: Use our Legislator Search tool to identify your Representative and Senators.  You’ll need to “Like” their Facebook pages in order to ‘tag’ them with your video.)

If you’re unable to upload a video, there’s another easy way to introduce yourself to your legislators. Simply share your story by sending a personalized email today!

As always, if you have any questions, feel free to let us know at advocacydc@heart.org

We can’t wait to see your videos. Thanks for being the cure!

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2012 You're the Cure Federal Recap

As we get ready to welcome the 113th Congress to Capitol Hill in January, we wanted to take a moment to reflect on all of the activity that took place on key heart and stroke issues this year.  In a tough economic environment, You’re the Cure advocates, like you, helped play critical defense to protect funding and programs that support our shared mission of building healthier lives.

We’re also proud to report that over 34,000 new grassroots advocates joined You’re the Cure this year, making our unified voice that much stronger in our communities, our states, and in the nation’s capital.  And what a noise we made!  Advocates took over 350,000 actions this year, from sending emails and making phone calls, to attending events and meeting with lawmakers, and more.   

Thank you for your hard work to influence Congress in 2012.  We’re excited to make even more progress in 2013!

2012 Action

What’s next?

Congress has yet to extend the Medicare Therapy Caps exceptions process, which is critical to ensuring stroke patients on Medicare are able to access and afford the physical, speech and occupational therapies they need. 

The coverage caps on rehabilitation services will kick in on January 1st, unless Congress passes an extension of the exceptions process by the end of the year.  Tell your legislators immediate action is needed for Medicare stroke patients now!

A key provision of the HEART for Women Act was signed into law earlier this year as part of a larger bill extending funding for the Food and Drug Administration! 

The new law requires the FDA to report on how new prescription drugs and medical devices work for women and minorities and to develop an action plan for improving participation in research.  Watch for the FDA’s report and action plan in the next 18 months.

The Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act and key patient-protections continued to take effect.       

As implementation continues toward 2014, when several  key provisions will take effect, the AHA will continue to work to ensure the needs of heart & stroke patients are being met.  Learn more about what the law means for you. 

The fate of the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (FFVP) remains undecided, with the House and Senate yet to reach an agreement  on the reauthorization of the Farm Bill.

As Congress’ work to pass a Farm Bill continues in the 113th Congress, so does our work to protect the FFVP and other nutrition programs from being cut or altered.  Take action in support of fruits and veggies in schools.  

As the Federal government works to negotiate a deal to address the current fiscal situation, funding for National Institutes of Health (NIH) research, Centers for Disease Control (CDC) prevention programs, and the Rural and Community AED program remains in jeopardy. 

If Congress and the President fail to stop automatic across-the-board funding cuts (aka: the ‘sequester’) by the end of the year, research and prevention programs will be cut by 8.2%.  Speak-up today to help prevent cuts!  The President will submit his 2014 budget to Congress in February, from which Congress will negotiate an appropriations bill.  Stay tuned for opportunities to act.

Programs that support walking amd biking in communities, like Safe Routes to School, took a big hit in the Transportation Bill passed and signed into law.  Loopholes now exist that allow states to use previously dedicated walking and biking funding for other transportation projects.   

Communities around the country are now hard at work to ensure that funding is provided for walking and biking projects as the law is implemented.  The Transportation Bill will need to be renewed in two years, presenting an opportunity to regain dedicated funding for bike and pedestrian initiatives.   

Big Tobacco’s efforts to get cigars exempted from the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) authority to regulate tobacco products bill did not succeed this year.

The bill could come up again in the 113th Congress.  We’ll need your help to continue to keep the pressure on Congress to reject efforts to exempt any tobacco products from the FDA’s regulation authority. 

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In the News: Smoke-free workplace laws linked to fewer heart attacks, study finds

From the Washington Post, October 29th- A decline in the number of cases of myocardial infarction, or heart attack, in one Minnesota county appears linked to smoke-free workplace laws in that area, research published Monday in the Archives of Internal Medicine finds.

Researchers at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. looked at the number of heart attacks among residents of Olmsted County, Minn. that occurred 18 months before and after implementation of laws banning smoking in restaurants in 2002, and the 18 months before and after those laws were extended to include all workplaces, including bars, in 2007. They found that the incidence of heart attack declined by a third (33 percent) from the start of the study to the end (i.e., from the 18 months before the first laws to the 18 months after the second laws went into effect). 

Read Jennifer LaRue Huget’s full Washington Post article about this important study…

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AHA Urges an Appeal on Court Ruling on Tobacco Labels

Washington, D.C., Aug. 24, 2012American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown issued the following comments on today’s ruling by the U.S. Appeals Court for the District of Columbia Circuit against the use of tobacco warning labels:

“With today’s decision, the judges have thrown out one of the best tools we have to force smokers to face the consequences of their choice, and stop the industry from addicting a new generation. The court has, in effect, insulted the intelligence of all Americans by implying we cannot distinguish the meaning of graphic tobacco warning labels.

As the Surgeon General reported recently, the decline in smoking is stalled, and more young Americans are using tobacco products. Each of the 1,200 Americans who die from tobacco-related diseases every day are being replaced by two smokers under the age of 26. Last year, the Centers for Disease Control estimated that 45.3 million adult Americans smoked cigarettes. In the U.S., about one-third of smoking-related deaths are linked to heart disease and stroke.

Graphic tobacco labels would help us stop this tragic trajectory. Research indicates that these vivid images are very effective in heightening awareness about the dangers of smoking and halting tobacco use.

Smoking kills. The gravity of that statement is often dismissed until we are confronted with the terrible effects of tobacco addiction. The American Heart Association sincerely hopes this decision is overturned on appeal, so we can move closer to making our nation 100 percent smoke free.”

 

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New Ads are a Compelling Weapon in the Fight Against Smoking

Washington, D.C., Mar. 15, 2012 — American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown issued the following comments on the new National Tobacco Education Campaign, unveiled today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

“The CDC’s new tobacco education campaign could not come at a better time. The painfully real accounts of former smokers featured in these ads will focus public attention on the devastating health effects of tobacco use, encourage current smokers to quit and help strongly combat the tobacco industry’s efforts to foster a new generation of addicts.

About one-third of smoking-related deaths in the United States are linked to cardiovascular disease. The stories of two Americans included in this campaign, who suffered from a heart attack and a stroke as a result of smoking, are harrowing examples of how tobacco can ruin an individual’s health. The ads highlight a shocking but very realistic fate that could await some current smokers if they continue their tobacco addiction. As the ads emphasize, smoking contributes to 1 in 5 strokes, and your chances of having a heart attack increase every time you light up.

The Surgeon General’s report released last week points to strong evidence that tobacco-education media campaigns can help reduce the number of smokers in this country. The American Heart Association believes these graphic ads, coupled with vigorous tobacco control at the state level, will reach not only the adults who smoke, but also will break through to teens and discourage them from ever taking up this deadly habit.”

Visit the CDC website or click the video below to see these compelling ads for yourself!

 

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Our Nation Must Do More to Shut Down the Pipeline of New Smokers, Says AHA CEO Nancy Brown

Washington, D.C., Mar. 8, 2012 — American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown issued the following comments on the new report, “Preventing Tobacco Use Among Youth and Young Adults,” released today by U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin, M.D.:

“The Surgeon General has done her job. Now we must do ours. This insightful new report makes it clear that we cannot let our guard down for a minute when it comes to tobacco addiction. While many Americans may think tobacco use is fading away, the evidence in this report tells a dramatically different story.

Not only is the decline in smoking stalled, but more young Americans are using tobacco products peddled by an industry intent on addicting a new generation. As this report reveals, each of the 1,200 Americans who die from tobacco-related diseases every day are being replaced by two smokers under the age of 26. We know that this smoking can set teens and young adults on the road to early hardening of the arteries and coronary artery disease in adulthood.

Despite this evidence, our society’s vigilance against tobacco use has waned in recent years — even though we have the solutions that can end this epidemic once and for all. The Surgeon General’s report confirms that combined interventions — such as mass media campaigns, well-funded state prevention and cessation programs, increased tobacco taxes, and smoke-free laws — reduce tobacco use among youth and adults. The American Heart Association strongly supports all of these interventions.

States are the key battleground in this ongoing war against tobacco. Unfortunately, state tobacco prevention funding has been reduced by one-third in the past several years, and many tobacco tax and smoke-free law initiatives have faced uphill battles in state legislatures. How many more young Americans need to become addicted to tobacco and suffer from heart disease, stroke or other chronic diseases before the states take action?

The Surgeon General’s report is an urgent warning for our nation, and particularly for states that must renew their commitment to tobacco control in order to stop a new generation of young people from lighting their first cigarette.”

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AHA CEO Nancy Brown’s Statement on Latest Court Ruling on Tobacco Warning Labels

Washington, D.C., Feb. 29, 2012 — American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown issued the following comments on today’s ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon that the Food and Drug Administration’s tobacco warning labels are unconstitutional:

“Today’s district court ruling that the FDA’s tobacco warning labels violate the First Amendment is unconscionable.

In his decision, Judge Leon stated that tobacco warning labels fail to convey any factual information about the health consequences of smoking. Nothing could be further from the truth. These labels clearly depict the terrible effects of tobacco addiction. Additionally, research has shown that these images are very effective in reducing tobacco use.

The American Heart Association believes that the graphic depictions of smoking-related diseases on cigarette packages will drive home the message that tobacco use is an equal opportunity killer, affecting smokers and nonsmokers alike. Cigarette smoking causes about 443,000 premature deaths each year and about 49,000 of these deaths are due to secondhand smoke.

In the United States, about one-third of smoking-related deaths are linked to heart disease and stroke.

Tobacco warning labels play a vital role to help current smokers quit and keep children from becoming addicted. Without them there could be more deaths from tobacco addiction and more profits for the tobacco industry.

While Judge Leon’s ruling was not unexpected given his earlier decision to block graphic warning labels, we sincerely hope this decision will be overturned on appeal.”

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White House Community Leaders Briefing Recap!

The American Heart Association’s advocacy volunteers are called You’re the Cure advocates for a reason. On February 24th, 70 outstanding volunteers brought their passion, stories, and expertise to the White House for the Community Leaders Briefing on Cardiovascular Health. This special event was an important opportunity for high level administration officials to hear from heart disease and stroke patients, caregivers, medical professionals, and community health leaders and discuss the role of public policy in building healthier lives free of cardiovascular disease and stroke.

The most powerful part of the day was the town hall meeting with Jon Carson, White House Director of Public Engagement, as advocates spoke-up to share their stories, such as:

  • Dr. Willie Lawrence, a cardiologist from Kansas, who described saving a woman’s life using hands-only CPR while dining out the night before the event. He stressed the need for a public trained in CPR and improved access to AEDs.
  • Emery Miller, a teenage congenital heart defect survivor from Arizona, who talked about his upcoming fifth heart surgery and his efforts to inspire other youth in his community to not let challenges hold them back.
  • Ruth Caruthers, a caregiver from West Virginia, who expressed the pain of losing her infant son, Corbin, to heart defects last year. In his honor, she is now leading an advocacy effort to get her state legislature to pass a bill that would require every newborn to be tested for heart defects.

Other event highlights included:

  •  An East Wing tour of the White House.
  • Listening sessions on the Million Hearts Initiative, the Affordable Care Act, National Institutes of Health research, and efforts to reduce health disparities.
  • A “tweet-up” with advocates and Jon Carson.
  • Roundtable discussions on clean air policy, childhood obesity and nutrition policy, and tobacco control policy.

The commitment of our volunteers shined throughout the event as they asked the tough questions and spoke about their local advocacy work. The American Heart Association looks forward to a continued dialogue with the administration as we work to advance heart-healthy and stroke-smart legislation and regulations.

Follow all of the action as it happened on Storify!

For more event pictures, visit www.flickr.com/amheartadvocacy.

 

 

 

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Highlights from White House Town Hall

You’re the Cure advocates and AHA volunteers have had an exciting day participating in the White House Community Leaders Briefing on Cardiovascular Health on February 24, 2012. During the town hall session led by Director of Public Engagement, Jon Carson, some very powerful stories were shared. Here are some highlights.

• Lisa Deck, a three-time stroke survivor in her 30s, shared her story and asked how survivors like her can help the administration spread the word about the Affordable Care Act.

• Dr. Willie Lawrence, a cardiologist practicing in Kansas City, KS shared his incredible experience of saving a woman while dining out in D.C. the night before the event. CPR saved the life of an otherwise healthy woman who collapsed in the restaurant.

• Emery Miller, 13 year old youth advocate from Phoenix, AZ, shared his story of being born with a congenital heart defect. Throughout his young life, Emery has had four open heart surgeries, and his fifth is scheduled not long after returning home from Washington, D.C.

• Ruth Caruthers shared her heart-breaking story having lost her son Corbin just four-months after birth due to multiple heart defects. Ruth has worked tirelessly as an advocate to support legislation in West Virginia that would require pulse oximetry screening for all newborns. This inexpensive test can detect heart defects and save lives. The legislation has already passed the House and now moves on to the Senate for consideration.

These are just a few of the stories shared at the town hall. Jon Carson closed the event by sharing that although several other similar briefings have been held the Cardiovascular Health session was the most impactful. Great work You’re the Cure advocates and AHA volunteers!

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You’re Invited to the White House- Virtually!

Friday, February 24th is the big day for the White House Community Leaders Briefing on Cardiovascular Health and we want you to be in on all of the action! The White House will be live streaming the event from 9:00am to 12:00pm EST and you can tune in to hear from top Administration officials about the legislation, regulations, and initiatives being pursued to help fight our nation’s No. 1 and No. 4 killers, heart disease and stroke. To watch this event live, visit www.whitehouse.gov/live.

“The American Heart Association and WomenHeart are key partners in our efforts to win the fight against heart disease and educate people about this critical public health challenge,” said Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement Jon Carson. “We’re looking forward to having them here at the White House to discuss ways to take action against a disease that takes the lives of over half a million Americans every year.” Read the White House’s full press release about the event.

You can also follow updates and join in day’s discussion through Twitter and Facebook:

1) Follow the @AmHeartAdvocacy Twitter feed and share your own thoughts and comments using the #HeartAtTheWH hashtag. From 3:30-4:15, Jon Carson (@JonCarson44), Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement, will host a Tweet-Up with AHA volunteer-advocates to answer questions, so be sure to join us!

2) Follow event highlights through posts, pictures, and videos on the You’re the Cure Facebook page. Comment, share, and post your own thoughts about this special event.

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American Heart Association Volunteers Head to the White House

On February 24th, 70 American Heart Association volunteers will be coming to Washington, DC to attend the White House Community Leaders Briefing on Cardiovascular Health. This special event brings Administration officials together with heart disease and stroke survivors and caregivers, medical professionals, researchers, and community health advocates.

In addition to sharing their own personal stories and professional expertise, attendees will have the opportunity to hear about legislation, regulations, and initiatives the Administration has supported and is implementing to help improve cardiovascular health. The range of topics includes:

You can be in the loop during this important event too! Check out the ways to engage with the American Heart Association, your fellow advocates, and the White House:

  1. Watch the event LIVE! From 9:00 am-12:00 pm EST, the White House will be live streaming the event at www.whitehouse.gov/live. Tune in to hear from top administration officials about the legislation, regulations, and initiatives being pursued to help fight heart disease and stroke. White House Director of Public Engagement Jon Carson will take live questions during a Tweet-Up from 3:30-4:15 pm EST. Follow him at @JonCarson44 and use the hashtag #HeartAtTheWH to join the discussion!
  2. Follow live event highlights on Twitter and Facebook! We’ll be posting updates, pictures, and videos throughout the day. Join us by sharing, re-tweeting, commenting, and posting. Don’t forget to use the event’s official hashtag- #HeartAtTheWH- to join in the conversation.
  3. Help us deliver our message to the White House! You can ask questions about the heart disease and stroke issues above and share your story with the White House through social media. Post to the White House Facebook page or direct your tweets to @WhiteHouse.
  4. Get the scoop from those who were there! Visit the You’re the Cure blog and the White House blog in the days following the event for event recaps and observations from your fellow advocates who attended.

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State Spotlight! NC Youth Advocates Discuss Prevention with Surgeon General

When U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin visited North Carolina on January 27th, our You’re the Cure youth advocates were ready to talk prevention with “America’s Doctor”. The Surgeon General, who was in the state to promote the National Prevention Strategy, participated in a town hall meeting with local health directors and teen tobacco use prevention advocates to discuss “What Will It Take to Keep Our Kids Tobacco Free.”

After the town hall, our youth advocates joined Dr. Benjamin and other health advocates for a statewide teleconference about the importance of continuing tobacco control programs and enhancing obesity prevention programs. The call was hosted by the NC Alliance for Health, a statewide coalition the AHA is proud to be a part of.

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Health and Human Services Year in Review

Check out this video below from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that recaps 2011. In this video, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius speaks about the Million Hearts Campaign, which the American Heart Association is a proud member. The Campaign aims to prevent one million heart attacks and strokes over the next five years.

Click to see the video!

 

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Cigar Sponsorship of the Orange Bowl Stopped

The planned partnership between the Orange Bowl and Canacho Cigars for three-years has been cancelled. This major reversal represents a big victory for public health advocates who believed that a tobacco company sponsoring a NCAA event would have sent a bad message to youth. Senators *** Durbin, Frank Lautenberg and Richard Blumenthal, as well as the AHA and other public health groups, sent letters to the Orange Bowl and the NCAA asking them to cancel their sponsorship.

Before the reversal, the Orange Bowl had planned on providing on-site cigar lounges and other events around the cigar company. In addition, the Company also had a sponsorship deal for the 2013 National Championship game.

This a huge victory for public health!

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Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the United States, claiming on average 443,000 lives every year. It increases the risk for heart disease and stroke, especially in those who are genetically predisposed. Smoking decreases our ability to exercise, it increases the tendency for blood clots and it decreases the good cholesterol in our bodies. The American Heart Association and the American Stroke Association are working to help improve our country’s health by curbing tobacco use. You’re the Cure advocates speak out in support of: 

Clean Indoor Air

We support smoke-free air laws for public places, work spaces and restaurants and bars, which have been shown to improve overall public health. 

Tobacco Taxes

We support raising taxes on tobacco products, which motivates people to quit and discourages kids from starting, while providing funding for smoking cessation programs.

Support for Quitters

Since quitting isn’t easy, we support helping smokers who want to quit by establishing sustainable funding for state tobacco cessation and prevention programs and supporting full coverage of tobacco cessation assistance by all insurance companies. 

Join us in supporting tobacco-free living by taking action today!

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Facts and Figures

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    Facts: January 2013 AHA Policy Report

    Find all of AHA's Policy Position statements on various issues with this "at-a-glance" report entitled the Policy Report.

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    Facts: Tobacco Cessation & Prevention Programs

    Get the facts about the need to establish sustainable funding state tobacco prevention & cessation programs. 

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  • pdf icon
    Facts: Coverage of Tobacco Cessation Services

    Get the facts about public and private insurance coverage for services that help smokers quit. 

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  • pdf icon
    Facts: Smoke-Free Laws

    Get the facts about protecting Americans from secondhand smoke through comprehensive smoke-free air laws.

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    Facts: Tobacco Taxes

    Get the facts about the impact of tobacco taxes on preventing and reducing tobacco use. 

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Campaign Resources

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    Presentation: Communicating with Congress

    View the slides from the recent presentation entitled Communicating with Congress: How to turn a 10-Minute Meeting with a Legislator into a Life-Long Relationship

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Grassroots Toolkit

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    You're the Cure Sign-Up Form - Tobacco

    Recruit others to join you as a You’re the Cure advocate using this printable sign-up form.

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    You're the Cure Advocate Guide

    Use this guide to learn about more ways you can get involved as a You’re the Cure advocate.

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