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#SmokeFreeFay Ramps Up

American Heart Association staff in our Fayetteville office is excited about the local policy campaign underway for Smoke-Free Fayetteville!  Fayetteville was the first city to go smoke-free in restaurants, back in 2000, paving the way for our statewide law.  We are once again working with Fayetteville residents to improve the health of their city and lead the way in Arkansas with a comprehensive smoke-free policy that covers all indoor workplaces. For more information and to follow the campaign, please visit https://www.facebook.com/smokefreefayetteville?fref=ts.

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A Nickel to Curb Smoking

Great News! Before the Assembly recessed for the summer, they introduced a bill to provide funding for tobacco programs aimed at preventing smoking and helping smokers quit. Smoking is still the #1 cause of preventable death in the state and New Jersey collects about $700 million from tobacco taxes each year, yet not one single cent is spent on tobacco prevention efforts.

New Jersey is the only state that provides no public funding to stop this preventable public health threat, but this legislation would change that! The bill requires that the state set aside 5% of what they collect in tobacco taxes (or a nickel for every dollar) to be used to for tobacco programs-estimated to be about $33 million each year!

The bill is sponsored by Assemblymen Carmelo Garcia, Timothy Eustace, Adam Taliaferro and Raj Mukherji and we thank them for their leadership on this issue. There is no Senate version of the bill (yet!) but I invite you to join with me and other "You're the Cure" advocates throughout New Jersey to advocate for this important legislation.

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Celebrate Ten Years of Smoke Free Restaurants and Bars in Vermont on September 1st!

Vermont has been enjoying smoke free bars and restaurants for some time thanks to advocates like you so come and celebrate with us!

It’s hard to believe it’s been ten years but on September 1, 2005, Vermont eliminated a large loophole in the 1993 Smoking in Public Places Law that allowed smoking in all bars and many restaurants.

This so-called Cabaret Exemption exposed hundreds of Vermont workers to dangerous levels of secondhand smoke, while most other Vermont employees were protected from secondhand smoke by the 1987 Smoking in the Workplace Law.

By passing this law, the Vermont Legislature made a strong statement that every Vermonter should be able to earn a living without risking their health.

This public health success didn’t happen on its own. It was due to the work of a vast and strong coalition of advocates, health professionals, restaurant and bar employees, lawmakers and YOU! Celebrate with us!

Please help us celebrate this major victory for public health on Tuesday, September 1st, 5:30-7:30 p.m. at the Doubletree Burlington.

This event is being sponsored by the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, the American Heart Association, the American Lung Association, Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, the Doubletree by Hilton Burlington and the University of Vermont Medical Center. It is supported by the Vermont Department of Health.

Please RSVP if you'd like to attend by contacting Ron Douglass at 876-6860 or rdouglass@lungne.org by August 26.

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Tobacco's Latest Threat: E-Cigarettes

Tobacco Companies are aggressively marketing e-cigarettes to our nation's youth, and it's working. With thousands of flavors like cotton candy, Swedish fish and gummi bears, it's no wonder e-cigarette use among young people has tripled. The American Heart Association and its partners are working hard to bring this problem under control.

Find citations here.

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Washington's 2015 Legislative Session is Officially Over


After a near shutdown of the state government, Washington’s legislative session ended on July 10 after going into three special sessions. From the beginning many suspected this would be a challenging year given the Legislature’s consideration of a transportation revenue package and its need to fund K-12 education to fulfill the State Supreme Court’s McLeary ruling. After many months of negotiating the Legislature is nearing completion of its work and it’s shaping up to be a great year for health policy in Washington.


Newborn Screening for Critical Congenital Heart Defects

On April 21 Governor Inslee signed Substitute House Bill 1285 into law. This bill ensures that every newborn in Washington is screened for critical congenital heart defects. Washington joins more than 35 other states in requiring this lifesaving screening. Our thanks to the many advocates across the state who shared with lawmakers the importance of this simple, inexpensive, lifesaving screening.

Tobacco Prevention

On June 29 the Legislature passed an operating budget. The budget includes a $14.5 million appropriation to the Department of Health, a portion of which will be used for tobacco prevention education. As many of you know tobacco prevention and control is a top priority for the American Heart Association and this investment will allow the state program to work closely with communities with high rates of tobacco use to educate youth and adults about the dangers of tobacco. This is the state’s most significant investment in tobacco prevention since the economic downturn.

Safe Routes to School and Bicycle/Pedestrian Safety Investments

After a hard-fought campaign to increase state investments in active transportation programs that help Washingtonians get active and healthy we are excited that Governor Inslee signed a historic transportation package into law on July 15 that does just that.  The 16-year package includes more than $164 million for bicycle and pedestrian safety projects and more than $56 million in state funds for Safe Routes to School. This is on top of $11.4 million in federal dollars for Safe Routes to School and the 2015-2017 biennial budget Governor Inslee signed further investing in both programs. These investments will ensure kids and adults across the state can safely commute via foot and bike, while also getting the physical activity needed for a healthy lifestyle. Our heartfelt thanks to our campaign partners at the Childhood Obesity Prevention Coalition and Washington Bikes for a fantastic collaborative effort.

Healthy Kids, Healthy Schools

AHA has advocated for a $5 million investment in the Healthy Kids, Healthy Schools program that would fund school grant applications for water bottle filling stations, physical education equipment, playground equipment, and kitchen renovations to enable scratch cooking. These investments will help shape the school environment for our kids, providing healthier food, beverage and physical activity options.

In all it has been a tremendous year for heart health policy in Washington. We share our sincerest thanks with you, our advocates, for all of your work communicating with lawmakers and talking with friends and neighbors, all to build a healthier state for all Washingtonians.

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Visit Save Lives California Today!

The American Heart Association is proud to be a member of the Save Lives California coalition to empower Californians like you to help protect more of our state's residents from the harms of tobacco use.

Our coalition, which includes healthcare workers, doctors, dentists, health plans and prevention groups, has intensified our efforts to encourage the Governor and legislature to pass the California Tobacco Tax for Healthcare, Research & Prevention Act this year.  We have also raised $2 million toward the effort to qualify this measure for the November 2016 ballot if the legislature fails to act.

Until recently, California's tobacco tax rate was 33rd in the nation. But just last month, Nevada’s Governor Sandoval signed a new tobacco tax dropping California to 34th.

Tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable death in California, killing more than 43,000 people each year. California taxpayers spend over $3 billion a year treating tobacco-related diseases of Medi-Cal patients. And the rates of nicotine use by youth are beginning to creep up.

By passing the California Tobacco Tax for Healthcare, Research & Prevention Act we can help offset the costs of treating tobacco-related diseases and increase funding for proven prevention programs that help reduce smoking among adults and youth alike. The consensus among researchers is that every 10 percent increase in the price of cigarettes reduces consumption by about 4 percent among adults and about 7 percent among youth. 

But we need your help. 

Visit www.SaveLivesCA.com today. Let's save lives California!  You just might help save the life of someone you love.

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Looking Back at Our Year Together!

The 2015 Legislative session in South Carolina was a lively one, allowing us to advance some vital pieces of legislation into 2016. Thank you for your advocacy efforts this session!

Senate Bill 320 & House Bill 3265: CPR in Schools
This requires all high school students to be proficient in hands-only CPR and AED as part of the already required high school health education class. The bills received favorable reports with amendments from both the House and Senate Education Committees, and each bill passed its respective body with unanimous support. However, no further action was taken once each bill passed into the opposite body.

Senate Bill 484: School Nutrition Guidelines
This ensures schools are meeting nutritional standards set by the USDA and that standards are regularly updated with USDA guidelines. It also helps parents understand how schools are meeting nutrition standards by reporting compliance in existing school health improvement plans. S 484 passed the Senate during the last week of May and will be ready for consideration by the House next year.

Send a letter to your Representative to urge them to support Senate Bill 484

Tobacco Control Funding:
We advocated during the appropriations process for an additional $6 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:
Two more communities across the state adopted smoke-free ordinances, bringing us to 60 South Carolina municipalities enjoying- smoke-free air!

As part of the You’re the Cure team, we made GREAT strides this year toward improving the lives of South Carolina citizens. We will be revisiting each of these issues in 2016 and have no doubt we will see major victories in the Palmetto State!

Thank you, sincerely, for all you do. You are our hero.

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Supreme Court Rules For the Affordable Care Act

We live in exciting times. While most of the time, the American Heart Association works with our You’re the Cure advocates on legislative issues, recently the AHA (with several other non-profit health organizations) was able to inform Americans across the country that their access to health care had been upheld by the Supreme Court through a ruling on the Affordable Care Act, directly through the court case King v Burwell.

In January, the AHA and other organizations (including the American Cancer Society & ACS Cancer Action Network, the American Diabetes Association, and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society) submitted a brief that urged the Supreme Court to rule the original intention of Congress had been to make tax credits for health insurance available to all, not just residents of states that decided to participate in a state health insurance exchange.

The King v Burwell ruling means that residents of states which had previously opted to participate in a federal health insurance exchange will be able to continue to benefit from tax credits for the health insurance they have chosen. Consequently, Americans who participate in the insurance exchange and are eligible will be able to expect tax credits for their policies [this does not affect those who currently receive insurance through their employers].

What does this mean for cardiovascular and stroke? Two facts worth noting for those who are uninsured:

  • Uninsured patients with cardiovascular disease experience higher mortality rates and poorer blood pressure control than the insured.
  • Uninsured people who suffer the most common type of stroke have greater neurological impairments, longer hospital stays and up to a 56 percent higher risk of death than the insured.

American Heart Association President Nancy Brown had this to say in her statement reflecting on the court’s ruling: "We commend the Court for not halting premium tax credits in the federal marketplaces, enabling an estimated 6.4 million people in 34 states to keep the assistance that makes their health insurance affordable. As a result, these patients can continue to focus on their healing and recovery, instead of worrying about losing their coverage and care. Now that the Affordable Care Act has survived two major Supreme Court challenges, it’s time for our nation to concentrate on improving the law and enrolling as many uninsured Americans as possible so everyone can receive the quality health and preventive care they need."

History is made every day, and we are thankful for our advocates who help us change our communities for the better.

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Governor Ige Signs Three Lifesaving Bills

Guest Blogger: Don Weisman, Hawaii Government Relations Director

We are very excited to announce that Governor Ige has signed three lifesaving bills into law. We can't thank our dedicated advocates enough for their help in passing these bills. We are happy that a few of you could join us for the bill signing. Big thanks to Dr. Char and stroke survivor Chris McLachlin for their help on HB 589. The families involved with HB 467 we thank you for sharing your stories with lawmakers. They truly made a difference and helped make clear why pulse oximetry screening is so important.

House Bill 467/Act 212 requires all Hawaii birthing centers to screen newborns for critical congenital heart defects (CCHDs) using a tool called pulse oximetry. CCHDs are the most common birth defects in the U.S. and the leading killer of infants with birth defects.

Babies discharged with an undiagnosed CCHD are at risk for having serious problems within the first few days or weeks of life and often require emergency care. Pulse oximetry, is a non-invasive, inexpensive test that consists of sensors placed on a baby's hand and/or foot to check blood oxygen levels.  The screening can identify some infants with a CCHD before they show any signs. Once identified, babies with a CCHD can be seen by cardiologists and can receive specialized care and treatment that could prevent death or disability early in life.

House Bill 589/Act 211 establishes a state stroke registry and require all acute stroke care hospitals to collect and submit stroke data to the State Department of Health (DOH). The DOH would then compile and share reports based on the data with the state’s Stroke Coalition, which includes representatives from acute stroke care hospitals, EMS agencies, the DOH and the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association. The Coalition members would use the data to identify weaknesses in Hawaii’s stroke system of care and work to improve it with the goal of speeding patient access to the best available care and improving long-term health outcomes.

Senate Bill 1030/Act 122 raises the legal age to purchase and possess tobacco products to 21. Tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable death in the United States, killing more than 400,000 people each year.  It is known to cause heart disease, stroke, cancer, and respiratory diseases, among other health disorders, and costs the U.S. $96 billion in health care expenditures each year. Nearly 1,000 kids under the age of 18 become regular, daily smokers each day; and almost one-third will die from it.

The Institute of Medicine (IOM) issued a report on March 12 bolstering this policy in which it found “increasing the minimum legal age for tobacco products will likely prevent or delay initiation of tobacco use by adolescents and young adults. The age group most impacted will be those age 15 to 17 years.” Raising the minimum legal age to 21 will mean that those who can legally obtain tobacco are less likely to be in the same social networks as high school students.

 

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