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The Campaign for a Healthy Colorado Begins!

Earlier this month, the American Heart Association and our partners formally launched The Campaign for a Healthy Colorado with a successful press conference. The AHA is partnered with other lead health organizations to work on this campaign, which provides us an opportunity to raise funding for important health initiatives through an increase on the cigarette tax and other tobacco related products at the state level. Many of our enthusiastic advocates attended and learned about how this ballot measure will benefit Colorado communities. It will help by reducing smoking and related health care costs, modernizing and improving care for youth and veterans, and propelling cutting-edge research to cure cancer and other major diseases. After the press conference, the advocates were trained on how to speak about this issue and how to become a petition circulator. Now our advocates are armed with skills to help us spread the word and gather signatures.

This measure will raise about $315 million a year, but it will only make it to the ballot with the help of the community. Please help the American Heart Association and the Campaign for a Healthy Colorado make Colorado a healthier state. We need more passionate advocates to spread the word in our communities! Will you help?

To help please visit: http://www.healthyco2016.com/ or email Vanessa.Fuentes@heart.org to learn more on how to get involved! 

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Coming Together to Support Tobacco Control

On July 7, You’re the Cure advocates and AHA’s coalition partners converged on the John A. Wilson Building to support strengthening tobacco control in the District of Columbia.

The afternoon began with a press conference led by Councilmember Yvette Alexander to promote the Sporting Events Smoking and Smokeless Tobacco Restriction Act which would eliminate smokeless tobacco use in all sports venues in the District. Councilmember Alexander was joined by Councilmember Mary Cheh, You’re the Cure advocate Dr. Carla Williams, representatives from the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, as well as 3 youth baseball players from the DC Dynasty team.

Following the press conference, You’re the Cure advocates filled the Council chamber for a joint hearing of the Council’s Health and Judiciary committees. Councilmember Alexander was joined by Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie to consider the sports venues bill, as well as the Prohibition Against Selling Tobacco Products to Individuals Under 21 Act that would raise the minimum tobacco purchasing age from 18 to 21 in Washington, DC.

You’re the Cure advocates Gail Mates, Dr. Carla Williams, and Dr. Fredrico Asch represented AHA, sharing their personal stories and expertise while voicing support for both tobacco control measures.

Dr. Asch said: Tobacco use creates social and physical harm to a person and a community. These bills will help to make a dent in the number of youth who smoke and improve the health of District residents.

Ms. Mates said: I am living proof that we should do everything we can to prevent tobacco from being sold to youth. These bills are what the District needs right now and are the next step to take to improve residents’ health.

The Council will begin its annual summer recess shortly, but both bills are expected to be considered in committee following the Council’s return in September

 DC residents can support a higher tobacco purchasing age here.

 DC residents can support getting tobacco out of sports venues here.

AHA staff Claude John and advocate Gail Mates make sure the hearings get social media attention

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<Special thanks to You’re the Cure intern Spencer Davis for development of this blog post>

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Portland Passes Tobacco 21- First in the State!

On June 20, Portland became Maine’s first municipality to take the next step to keep all harmful tobacco products out of the hands of our children.  Portland City Council unanimously agreed to an ordinance change that will raise the age to purchase tobacco to 21.  American Heart Association volunteers like Richard Veilleux (Maine Board Chair) and Sarah Porter led the advocacy effort to get this done.  This ordinance will significantly reduce the number of teenagers and young adults who start smoking cigarettes, e-cigarettes, cigars and hookah, or using chewing tobacco.  90% of those who provide cigarettes to younger teens are under the age of 21.

Tobacco use is still the leading cause of preventable death in Maine, and across the country.  Nearly 1,000 Maine kids become daily smokers each year—setting up their developing brains for a lifetime of addiction.  We need to do all we can to reduce the toll of tobacco.

The American Heart Association volunteers who testified at the public hearing said it best:

"I really hope that generations after me will either not start smoking at all, or, they will be able to quit more easily due to more difficult access. Tobacco 21 would not only benefit smokers, but also help people like me see friends and family take steps toward a healthier lifestyle". –Maine College of Art Student and American Heart Association volunteer

"When I was a little kid, my dad spent a lot of time with me. He used to play Ogre Tag with me and my sister on the playground where we’d run and then laugh until we were out of breath. These precious moments could have easily been traded away for the sake of tobacco, since my dad used to be a smoker. He started before he was even eighteen. Nearly twenty-five percent of high school students report using tobacco products, and an estimated 6 million of those kids will die prematurely in adulthood if current trends continue. They won’t have the chance to run with their kids on the playground; they won’t have the chance to laugh like I did with my dad."—Casco Bay High School student and American Heart Association volunteer

"Furthermore, high school students are at a crucial point in brain development. Because of this, the brain may be more vulnerable to the addictive effects of tobacco. The younger one is when they smoke their first cigarette the more likely they are to be a smoker for life." –another Casco Bay HS student and American Heart Association volunteer. 

Advocacy volunteers are crucial to our efforts to reduce tobacco use in Maine. If you’d like to help us in the future, please email me at

becky.smith@heart.org, and thanks.

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Advocacy Victories in the Commonwealth

We are excited that with the end of our fiscal year that we have a lot of advocacy wins to celebrate. This was a true team effort that could not be achieved without your support of our work, taking action on alerts, being part of lobby day, and you, our dedicated volunteers being tireless advocates throughout the year. 

  • We were successful in leading a campaign to secure a $500,000 appropriation for Stroke Education and awareness; including a specific earmark of $200,000 to support the state Stroke registry.  The $200,000 earmark met the Goal Guidance criteria for Stroke Registry funding.  Not only were we successful in having the appropriation included in the legislature’s budget but we also successfully led a veto override campaign. This happened in July 2015. Just yesterday we were able to secure an additional $620,00 for stroke funding in the final budget that is on its way to the Governor’s desk so we are excited that the momentum of the original funding continues!
     
  • In the early winter Boston joined almost 90 cities and towns across Massachusetts to set the minimum age at 21 and with Boston joining the movement more than ½ of the population live in cities and towns where 21 is the minimum age.  In May we were able to add to the local 21 push when the cities and Towns of Brockton, Carver, Chelsea, Essex , Falmouth, Gloucester, Hadley, Halifax, Marblehead, Norfolk, North Adams, North Attleboro, Plainville, Shelburne, Southampton, Sunderland and Tewksbury cumulatively representing 324,199 residents were confirmed to have passed T-21 policy. In June the Cities/Towns of Great Barrington, Lowell, Stoughton and Worcester passed T-21 legislation adding an additional 317,365 Massachusetts residents living in communities that now have a minimum legal age of 21 to purchase Tobacco products.  These additions mean that 121 of the 351 cities and towns in the Commonwealth have T-21 laws. We are confident that this momentum will help us pass the Statewide Tobacco 21 bill by July 31st!
     
  • For a number of years we have been working on Complete Streets to secure necessary funding and policy language so that we can create healthier communities for all of our residents. I am excited to say that the Massachusetts state Transportation Improvement plan will be dedicating a total of $110 million dollars over the next 5 years to programs and projects to improve access to safe bicycle and pedestrian programs that will help people who walk, bike, run and roll do so more safely.  This campaign involved not only working to appropriate the funds but also to influence the Capital Improvement Plan to ensure that all modes of transportation are considered in road improvement design.
     
  • Lastly we were able to secure a win for our local CPR in Schools efforts. Unlike most other states, nearly all curriculum decisions are decided at the local level which means that we have to work with local school Superintendents and School Committees to implement CPR Graduation requirements in school districts across the State.  This particular win reflects the passage of policies in the Worcester, Springfield and the Southwick-Tolland-Granville Regional school districts.  These three school districts represent an additional 3,169 High School Graduating Seniors who will learn the fundamentals of CPR before they graduate.  In all, we have worked with 2 additional districts that require some form of CPR training before students graduate with an overall total of 5,317 students trained each year.  We have also identified an additional 26 school districts with over 12,000 annual graduates to focus on in FY 16-17. This is a particularly satisfying win because it took a true team effort to get this down, and without our volunteer’s dedication and outreach we would not be making the progress that we are!

 Lastly as some of you know our legislative session is not over yet, we have until July 31st at midnight to get a few more policies passed. We are working towards:

  1. Statewide Tobacco 21
  2. Healthy Vending in State Buildings
  3. $6 million for Healthy Food Financing
  4. A Comprehensive Stroke System of Care
  5. Quality Physical Education
  6. AEDs in all Public Schools

 

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Tobacco Policies Coming to DC Council

Tobacco control policies are heating up at the DC Council, with two bills set for hearings in early July. You’re the Cure advocates can influence policy that will further strengthen the District’s smoke-free environment.

The Prohibition Against Selling Tobacco Products to Individuals Under 21 Act would raise the minimum age to purchase tobacco products from 18 to 21 in the District. The bill would make it more difficult for youth to get their hands on tobacco products and stop them from becoming lifelong users. DC would join other states and major cities that have raised the purchase age, including Hawaii, California, New York City, Boston, and Chicago.

The second bill, the Sporting Events Smoking and Smokeless Tobacco Restriction Act would eliminate smokeless tobacco use from all sports venues in the District. Youth shouldn’t have to see their favorite professional athletes on the field using tobacco This would be an important policy to show kids that tobacco and healthy lifestyles don’t mix.  New York City, Chicago, Boston, San Francisco, and Los Angeles already have similar restrictions in place.

You’re the Cure advocate Gail Mates says: “In light of the impact, it’s mind-boggling to think that smoking is the most preventable risk factor for heart disease and lung cancer. No stone should be left unturned to fix this issue!”

A hearing for both of these bills will occur on July 7th at the DC Council. Make your voice heard, and come testify to tell Councilmembers that you support strengthening laws to keep tobacco away from kids!

To sign up to testify or for more information, go to: http://www.dcregs.dc.gov/Gateway/NoticeHome.aspx?noticeid=6084536

Can’t come to the hearing?  Support the effort with the click of a button at the links below:

<Thanks to You’re the Cure intern Spencer Davis for help developing this blog post>

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NH Governor Responds to Advocates Request for a Veto

In an 'end of session’ twist, NH You’re The Cure advocates had to rush into action to oppose a bill which threatened our Smoke-free Restaurant law - and succeeded in securing the Governor’s veto!  In May the NH Legislature passed a bill, amended to add a provision loosening the license criteria for Cigar Bars.  When this specific class of business was created by legislation several years ago, Cigar Bars were not permitted to sell or serve free food to customers, to prevent unfair competition with restaurants abiding by the Smoke-free Law.  AHA volunteers made phone calls into the Governor’s office urging her to veto SB495, and Governor Hassan agreed this would be a significant rollback to NH's Smoke Free Bar and Restaurant law.  Advocates’ prompt action made a difference in protecting public health policy.

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You're the Cure and You're Making it Happen!

Thank you to all our Great Rivers Affiliate You’re the Cure advocates! Because of you, we’re making Delaware, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia healthier places to live. It’s been a very busy few months in our state capitols and we wanted to take this opportunity to share a few of the policy wins YOU have helped make possible.

In March, Kentucky became the 29th state to pass legislation that will ensure all students learn lifesaving CPR before graduation. In June, neighbor Ohio became No. 33. Across the country, 34 states (including DE and WV) have now passed this lifesaving legislation, resulting in over 2 million students being taught every year. Pennsylvania is working bills in both the House and Senate and we're looking forward to celebrating another CPR success soon.

On June 16th, Philadelphia became the largest, and only the second, US city to pass a sugary drink tax. In addition to helping fight diabetes and obesity, the 1.5 cents per ounce tax will generate revenue to help fund citywide pre-K and improve parks and community centers. Read more about this historic win for Philadelphia's kids.

Our dedicated West Virginia advocates rallied over and over again during the 2016 Legislative Session to help beat back several attempts to weaken local smoke-free regulations.  In addition, the WV legislature passed a 65-cent increase in the state’s cigarette tax to help raise needed revenue to address the state’s budget shortfall.

WV passed Stroke Systems of Care legislation in March, helping ensure stroke victims get the fast care they need for the best chance of recovery.  Delaware will hopefully soon join them in improving stroke care in the First State. Senate Bill 265 passed the legislature in late June and is awaiting the Governor's signature. Kentucky passed similar legislation in 2015 and Ohio and Pennsylvania are also working on bills that will improve stroke care.

Again, thank you! We couldn’t have done it without you, and we look forward to continuing to work alongside our amazing advocates to create heart-healthier communities.

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Capital Region Heart Walk Brings Out Hundreds, Many Learn CPR

Over the weekend, the Capital Region Heart Walk was held at the Empire State Plaza in Albany. Despite the rain and the wind, the event brought out hundreds of people looking to make a difference in the lives of those living with heart disease or at risk for stroke. 

In addition to walking, there were lots of people who stopped by the Advocacy table to learn what we are working on this session. Many also stopped by the CPR table to see how quick and easy it is to learn CPR. 

It was a great day to be part of the team here at AHA!

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Gail Mates

Gail Mates, Virginia

My first recollection of my mother was with a cigarette in her hand.

She smoked over 3 packs a day. Imagine being in a car with the windows up and experiencing that smoke, one cigarette lit right behind another. Not surprisingly I had chronic respiratory problems and allergies during my formative years; I was always coughing. Never-the-less I started smoking myself.

I can still hear my mother telling me not to smoke "It’s not good for you,” she’d say. Then I would sneak outside to have a cigarette without her knowing. The old adage applied:  “Actions speak louder than words.”

I decided one day to quit, and I did, cold turkey. Having severe bronchitis wasn't the kind of fun I was looking for.

Begging my mother over and over again to quit, she told me "It won't be the cigarettes that kill me, it will be the stress of you badgering me.”  How wrong that proved to be.

When cigarettes were first introduced they were described as stylish and glamorous.  There was nothing glamorous about hearing the doctor read my mother’s death sentence: “You have stage 4 lung cancer, and you have less than a year to live”

Tears welled up in my eyes as the words came out of his mouth --  my beloved mother would die shortly. My mother had heart disease and I always thought this would be what she would die from.  I never thought she would have tumors from tobacco in her lungs, heart and kidneys.

I can still recall how she gasped for breath as the end was drawing near. She would yell out in terrible, severe pain. Witnessing my mother’s small frame dwindle down to literally skin and bones, I could barely go on. It was a horrendous death at 67 and I will be forever changed by it.

Did I mention the unthinkable? My dear mother in law at 62 died of lung cancer just 6 months prior to my mother’s death. The agony of this will forever haunt me.

Having never had a grandmother when I was growing up, I had high hopes for my children to experience loving moments with their Grandma's. These so called stylish, glamorous sticks viciously robbed us of that time.                             

In light of the impact, it’s mind-boggling to think that smoking is the most preventable risk factor for heart disease and lung cancer. We must increase the smoking age, raise taxes on cigarettes and related products, fund much needed quit lines and provide education to prevent smoking from ever occurring. There’s even a movement across the country to ban tobacco use in sports venues like ballparks, where kids watch their role models closely. 

No stone should be left unturned! Until my last breath I will work tirelessly and endlessly to be sure that tobacco never takes another life.

 

DC residents can support a higher tobacco purchasing age here.

 

DC residents can support getting tobacco out of sports venues here.

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Albany County Executive Signs Tobacco 21!

On Wednesday June 8, County Executive Dan McCoy signed Tobacco 21 into law, making it illegal to sell tobacco products to anyone under the age of 21.

As you are aware, smoking is a leading risk factor for heart disease and stroke. This new law will make it harder for youth to get their hands on tobacco products, ultimately lowering the chances dramatically of them ever starting in the first place.

Your phone calls, e-mails, texts and signatures on our Change.org petition spoke volumes to the County Executive on how important this was to you. We couldn’t have gotten this passed without all of your help!

 

Below is some local media coverage of the County Executive’s signature:

http://www.timesunion.com/local/article/McCoy-to-sign-law-raising-Albany-County-s-age-to-7968808.php

http://wnyt.com/news/tobacco-buying-age-albany/4163473/?cat=10114

http://cbs6albany.com/news/local/mccoy-signs-law-you-have-to-be-21-to-buy-tobacco-in-albany-county

We are now working with advocates in Montgomery County, Cortland County and Schenectady County on their own Tobacco 21 bills! Fingers crossed that New York will soon be the next state to pass statewide legislation protecting our youth from dangerous tobacco addiction!

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