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State Advocacy Committee News Update

On November 21, the North Carolina American Heart Association Advocacy Coordinating Committee met to celebrate achievements, bestow advocacy honors and discuss policy priorities. The committee had much to celebrate this year including the passage of stroke center designation rules, advancement of the healthy corner store initiative legislation, and significant progress in local communities for healthy vending and tobacco control policies.

During the meeting, the committee recognized three individuals for their advocacy efforts that help advance the AHA mission.


  • The 2015 NC AHA Heart of a Friend Award was presented to Senator Don Davis for his leadership to advance HB 250/SB 296 Healthy Food Small Retailer/Corner Store Act.
  • The 2015 NC AHA Heart of a Champion Award was presented to Drexdal Pratt, Director of Health Service Regulation for his work for more than a decade to promote high impact policies that save lives including the Good Samaritan laws, stroke and STEMI transport protocols, stroke center designation, and pulse oximetry screening.
  • The 2015 Dr. Robert Blackburn Award for Advocacy Excellence was presented to Valerie King for her strong leadership in You’re the Cure.

This meeting also provided time to recognize the 2014-2016 Committee for their service and install the 2016-2018 NC AHA Advocacy Coordinating Committee. Juddson Rupp and Yolanda Dickerson will co-chair the committee for the next term. The committee works closely with AHA staff partners to provide strategic leadership for the NC AHA advocacy program and coordinates You’re the Cure activities including state lobby day.

Committee members spent time discussing the top priorities for 2016. Efforts will continue to advance HB 250/SB 296 with full funding to create a statewide healthy corner store initiative. In addition, You’re the Cure will be working to expand affordable health insurance to those caught in the coverage gap with no other options available to them. Locally efforts will continue to promote healthy vending policies local governments to ensure employees have access to healthy food choices while at work.

If you are interested in learning more about the NC AHA Advocacy Coordinating Committee, please contact Betsy Vetter.

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Join Us at the Capitol on Feb 2nd for 2016 WV Advocacy Day!

February is quickly approaching, which makes today the perfect time to register and make plans to join us for WV Advocacy Day: You're the Cure at the Capitol on February 2nd. Join others from across the Mountain State as we meet with lawmakers in support of heart-health policies, like protecting WV's local smoke-free regulations.

As you may know, during the 2015 WV Legislative Session, several bills were introduced that would roll back smoke-free laws in your favorite venues that have been smoke-free for years. We anticipate that there will be more attempts in the 2016 session and we need your voice!

Simply register today, make plans to join us on February 2nd and we'll take care of the rest!

What: American Heart Association WV Advocacy Day

When: February 2, 2016, 8:30 am - 1 pm

Where: State Capitol, Charleston, WV

Take a moment now to register, and then watch your inbox for more details as the date approaches.

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Port Lavaca Stays Smoke-Free

Earlier this month, residents of Port Lavaca, Texas voted 72% to uphold their comprehensive smoke-free ordinance!  To give you a sense of the timeline, the City Council passed an ordinance by a 5-1 vote that included making bars and restaurants smoke free, effective April 2015.  In August, several local bar owners were able to obtain more than 200 signatures that were needed to overturn the law.

This placed the ordinance on the November ballot for approval of voters, and the residents of Port Lavaca voiced their support for a healthier community to live and work! A big thank you to our You’re the Cure advocates who helped make this possible!

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Multnomah County positioned to lead on tobacco control policy

Guest Blogger: Sarah Higginbotham, Oregon Government Relations Director

On October 22nd, Multnomah County Commissioners heard from a long list of advocates and organizations supporting improved tobacco control policies that could help the county go from lagging behind the rest of the country to leading it. Multnomah County is ranked the worst in the country for illegal tobacco sales to minors, due in large part to a lack of a licensure program for tobacco retailers.

Oregon is one of only a few states that doesn’t require a license to sell tobacco, which would identify merchants, impose standards, and enforce laws that are currently violated without consequence. Tobacco retail licensure programs have effectively reduced sales to youth in many communities across the nation. During the public hearing, commissioners considered policies aimed at better protecting youth from tobacco.

Encourage all of the commissioners to protect our kids from tobacco by taking action here.

Commissioners also heard support for raising legal sale age for tobacco to 21.  A report released earlier this year by the Institute of Medicine indicates that raising the age of sale of tobacco products to 21 nationally would reduce the smoking rate by 12%.

“Recent research reinforces what we’ve known all along—age matters when it comes to tobacco prevention,” said Dr. Michael Shapiro, cardiologist and board member with the American Heart Association of Oregon & SW Washington. “Ninety-five percent of smokers start before age 21. The longer we can delay that first puff, the more likely our kids will enter adulthood free from tobacco addiction.”

The county would be following in the footsteps of more than 90 municipalities across the nation, including New York City, as well as the state of Hawaii, which raised the age to purchase tobacco this year.

Ori Alon, a 16-year-old student from Catlin Gabel High School, submitted his thoughts as testimony.

“Tobacco is so easy to get from friends who are seniors,” Alon said. “If you want to make it actually difficult, raise the tobacco age to 21."

Commissioners have the opportunity to pass policies that protect our kids from the dangers of tobacco addiction.

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ICYMI: Field Poll Finds Large Majority of Californians Favor Taxing and Regulating E-Cigarettes

Field Poll results released on October 26th show overwhelming support for taxing and regulating electronic cigarettes, a key component of the 2016 initiative submitted by the Save Lives California coalition that will prevent smoking – the number one cause of preventable death in California. Almost three in four California voters (74%) favor taxing e-cigarettes and vaping products to fund public education, research and law enforcement around tobacco products.

The Field Poll also found that significant majorities of Californians are in favor of regulating “vape shops” like other tobacco retailers and prohibiting e-cigarette usage in places where smoking is not allowed. Nearly three in five voters (57%) want to ban flavored e-cigarettes to reduce their appeal to teens.  We know between 2011 and 2013, e-cig use in youth tripled equating to a quarter million youth using these devices, largely because of a lack of regulation on these products.

“Teen vaping is growing to epidemic proportions and this study shows Californians want to prevent the public health threat of these tobacco products,” said Kula Koenig, California Government Relations Director for the American Heart Association. “It’s up to all of us to keep these dangerous tobacco products – that contain addictive nicotine and cancer-causing particles – away from kids. The Save Lives initiative prevents underage smokers from becoming addicted to unsafe products, while ensuring if you don’t smoke, you don’t pay.” 

For the full press release, visit here.

As you know, the Save Lives California has submitted the California Healthcare, Research and Prevention Tobacco Tax Act of 2016. This voter initiative will increase the state’s cigarette tax by $2 per pack, and place equivalent taxes on other tobacco products, including e-cigarettes. The money will be used to fund healthcare, research into cures for smoking related disease, and tobacco prevention efforts aimed at teens and others.

Increasing the price of tobacco products is a proven strategy to decrease use, especially among use. Every 10% increase in the price of cigarettes reduces overall consumption decreases by 3-5%, reduces the number of young-adult smokers by 3.5%, and reduces the number of kids who smoke by 6-7%.  Similar trends are seen for price increases of all tobacco products.

To get involved, please contact Kula Koenig or Josh Brown.

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Our Response to Increased Use of E-cigs

In August, the Alaskan Division of Epidemiology reported that e-cig use among adults quadrupled and now it has been reported that more Alaskan teens are using e-cigs than traditional cigarettes. Between 2010 and 2013, e-cig use in youth tripled equating to a quarter million youth using these devices. These devices contain nicotine and can lead to Alaskan youth becoming long-term nicotine addicts.

The American Heart Association and our coalition partners at Smoke-Free Alaska believe this large spike in e-cigarette use by Alaska teens highlights the importance of passing the statewide smoke-free workplace law, which includes e-cigarettes, currently being considered by the Alaska Legislature.

“Increased use of electronic cigarettes by Alaska adults and youth is not an accident. The tobacco industry is promoting e-cigarettes to kids and young adults and casting doubt about negative health effects of use and exposure to harmful particles/chemicals that are emitted from e-cigs,” said Marge Stoneking, Executive Director at the American Lung Association in Alaska.

Studies have shown that the use of e-cigarettes can cause short-term lung changes and irritations, while the long-term health effects are unknown. Preliminary studies indicate non-users can be exposed to the same potentially harmful chemicals as users, including nicotine, ultrafine particles and volatile organic compounds.

The Alaska Smoke-Free Indoor Workplace bill, introduced last session as SB1 by Senator Peter Micciche, would prohibit smoking, including the use of e-cigarettes, in all indoor workplaces, businesses and public spaces.  Individuals who choose to smoke will simply have to “take it outside” to protect others from the effects of secondhand smoke and e-cigarette aerosol.

There is enough evidence regarding the health risks of these products to include e-cigarettes in laws that protect non-users from indoor secondhand exposure particularly in family friendly environments like diners and movie theaters. Discouraging Alaska youth from believing e-cigarettes to be safe and “cool” is a strong secondary reason to make sure that the Alaska Smoke-Free Indoor Workplace law includes them. Kids emulate adults and kids who grow up in smoke-free communities are less likely to smoke.

If you want to get involved, please visit or take a few moments to sign our petition.

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Nutrition On the Go Can Be Easy!

On November 4th, we celebrated National Eating Healthy Day to encourage everyone to resolve to eat healthy. We know eating healthy meals in an on-the-go lifestyle can be quite the challenge.  So how can we make sure we are making smart choices? 

With holiday parties around the corner and all of the other great things that come between Thanksgiving and the end of the year, is it possible to keep the resolve to eat healthy? Did you know the American Heart Association has heart healthy recipes on our website that you can enjoy? For instance check out this tailgate chili recipe for the next time you are planning that ballgame viewing party!  What a way to make your next gathering more nutritiously delicious.

This is just one example, and you can find more in our heart healthy guide to seasonal eating here!

Finally, we have an idea for you!

We often say that you should be building the relationship with your lawmaker. Consider inviting your lawmaker to join you in the journey to overall better health. Simply take a moment to send them your favorite AHA recipe, and add a few sentences about your why you are making healthy eating a priority. Maybe your lawmaker will feature that recipe in an upcoming newsletter!

If you need help to find your lawmakers, contact your Grassroots Director and she will be happy to share that information with you! If you are in DC, Maryland, or Virginia, contact Keltcie Delamar, and if you are in the Carolinas, email Kim Chidester!

We wish everyone happy, heart-healthy eating!

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Kristin Salvi, New York

My name is Kristin Salvi and I am the newest member of the Government Relations team in New York! I look forward to the opportunity to champion our policy goals related to the prevention of heart disease and stroke.  Coming from doing advocacy work for the New York State Nurses Association, and most recently working for the state of New York, my background includes advocating for public health issues such as the CPR in Schools law, sugary sweetened beverage (SSB) tax bills, childhood obesity prevention programs, and many other important campaigns. I am excited to join with all of you here at the American Heart Association because I value the great work the organization has achieved on tobacco control, the healthy food and active living initiatives, access to care, and many other important public health topics.


As a new staff member of the American Heart Association, I've been learning about our platform, "Life is Why." (To learn more, click here.)  Being a relatively new mom of almost three year old twins, they are my 'why.' I want my kids to grow up in a world where receiving quality physical education in schools in the norm, healthy food is accessible to all regardless of where you live,  everyone has access to quality health care regardless of income, and everyone can live and breathe in a smoke-free environment. Although I may be aiming high, my reason for being so passionate on these issues is to make the world a better place for them. I look forward to working with all of you on all of the good stuff we are planning to do in the future!

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New Hampshire seeks to raise the tobacco sale age to 21

The American Heart Association has long supported evidence-based policies to reduce the rate of tobacco use among adults and youth. Eliminating the public’s exposure to second-hand smoke, with smoke-free workplaces, restaurants and bars has proven very successful and a policy that has been embraced by the public and lawmakers alike in New Hampshire. Increasing the price of tobacco by raising state excise tax has met limited success in NH, but also accompanies a drop in tobacco use by young people. However, NH still has the highest youth smoking rate in the Northeast. We know 95% of adult smokers began before the age of 21. The Institute of Medicine released a report in March which found raising the legal age to purchase tobacco to 21 would reduce youth access to tobacco. The rationale, much like it was for reducing alcohol use, is to create more social distance between those under age 18 and those legally able to purchase tobacco. Raising the legal age to 21 will reduce tobacco use among youth, save lives and reduce healthcare costs attributed to tobacco related illness. To learn more, find the IOM report online:

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Tobacco 21 Picking Up Steam in NJ!

The New Jersey Legislature will be heading back to Trenton this month for the final weeks of the current legislative session. This period is often referred to as the "lame duck session," and many bills that have been making their way through the legislative process will be heard in committee and be voted on in both houses. Those that do not receive legislative approval before the session ends in January will need to be reintroduced.

One of the bills that the American Heart Association supports would raise the age for purchasing tobacco from 19 to 21. The measure passed in the Senate in June 2014, but it is awaiting consideration in the Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee. There are currently 8 bipartisan sponsors that are supporting the bill.

Hawaii was the first state to pass such a law earlier this year. The legislation is modeled on a law that passed in Needham, MA. After it went into effect, the youth smoking rate plummeted by 50%. In addition, 8 towns in New Jersey have enacted a similar policy locally.

I hope that you will join our efforts in the coming weeks to advocate for this potentially life-saving legislation.

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