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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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Let’s Serve Our Kids Better!

We’re taking on a new policy effort to eliminate sugary drinks and set nutrition standards in restaurant kids’ meals. Only 3% of kids' meals options are healthy.

People are eating out more than ever. In fact, nearly half of all food dollars are spent on restaurant meals. That means kids in our community are eating many of their meals outside the home, positioning restaurants as a prime source of their nutrition. That’s why it’s so important that restaurant kids’ meals be healthy.

 But right now, most restaurant children’s meals are too high in calories, fat, salt, and sugar, with too few whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. And when children eat out often and the options are unhealthy, kids are conditioned to eat poorly and assume eating unhealthy options is the norm and acceptable. A lifetime of eating unhealthy food can lead to serious health consequences such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.

 You can help us do something about this. Support our effort to eliminate sugary drinks and set nutritional standards for restaurant children’s meals. Time is of the essence; in the face of the obesity epidemic, we want our kids to be healthy now. With policies in place to ensure kids’ meals include healthy options, restaurants, the state, and families can work together to serve kids better.

 

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Jane Kolodinsky Takes on Role of AHA Vermont Advocacy Committee Chair

A long-time advocate for a sugary drink excise tax in Vermont will now chair the American Heart Association’s Vermont Advocacy Committee and help promote nutrition standards and the removal of sugary drinks in restaurants kids’ meals.

Professor Jane Kolodinsky is also the chair of the University of Vermont’s Department of
Community Development and Applied Economics.  Addressing the AHA’s goal of setting nutrition standards in restaurant kids’ meals makes sense to her as it’s a topic she is familiar with.

Jane is a co-author of a chapter entitled, Childhood Obesity, Food Choice and Market Influence” in the book “Global Perspectives on Childhood Obesity.” One of the findings discussed in the publication is that the number of kids eating at fast food restaurants has increased over time.  Fast food restaurants are so popular that adolescents tend to eat at them twice a week and, on a typical day, 30% of youth aged 4-19 consume fast food.

Jane notes that with fast food being higher in fat and energy, children get a disproportionate number of their recommended daily calories at these establishments. Improving the nutrition of all restaurant kids meals will be an important step as dietary patterns are formed early in life.

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Study Brings Healthy Drink Changes to UVM

A study by UVM Professor Rachel Johnson has found that a ban on bottled water at the university has actually increased sugary drink purchases.

The ban was implemented in 2013 as a way to reduce pollution from plastic bottles. But it has had negative consequences according to the study. These include making students and faculty more likely to purchase sugary drinks when water isn’t available in vending machines, no reduction in the bottle waste and a significant increase in sugary drinks shipped to the campus.

Professor Johnson is an AHA volunteer who has championed the effort to decrease sugary drink consumption to lessen obesity. Though Johnson’s study found negative impacts from the ban, the release of the study has brought some positive changes to the school.

UVM is now requiring that at least half of drinks offered must have 40 calories or less. Drink dispensing machines will have water options added with free cups and the school will start monitoring the number of unhealthy vs. healthy drinks sold.

Read more about the study here. http://www.vtcynic.com/?p=11132

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Vermont Heart Walk to Highlight the Team Effort that Saved a Local Coach!

Vermont advocates pushed for passage of legislation in 2012 that required schools to teach students Hands-only CPR and the importance of an AED (automated external defibrillator). Its efforts like these that have raised awareness to the need for public access to defibrillation and a strong chain of survival. Many schools now have AEDs on hand, including at sporting events.

It’s a good thing. The American Heart Association’s Vermont Heart Walk on September 26th will highlight the successful effort that saved the life of Rice High School Girls’ Basketball Coach Tim Rice from a cardiac arrest during a game against CVU this winter. The CVU team had the foresight to bring their AED to the game with them. That AED, along with many quick actions from bystanders and EMS enabled the coach to give a thumbs up as he left the game instead of much worse outcome.

We’ll honor Cardiologist Ed Terrien, who performed CPR on Coach Rice that day. Join Dr. Terrien and hundreds of others walking at the Vermont Heart Walk at Oakledge Park in Burlington on September 26th to raise funds for life-saving research.

There will also be Heart Walks on September 12th in Swanton and September 19th in Berlin. You can register for any of the walks at www.vermontheartwalk.org. Do it today and make a commitment to save lives. Get your friends and family together for a great day and a great cause!

You can also ensure that your community and school have a strong chain of survival by contacting your local high school and asking if the school has an AED and making sure students are CPR-trained.

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Volunteer Peter Evans Found Writing a Letter Makes a Difference

As the old adage says, “It’s the squeaky wheel that gets the grease.” Advocacy helps us to speak up and out about issues that are important to us.  The more we do, the more our message spreads. As volunteer Peter Evans found out during our sugary drink campaign, speaking up, even on paper, can have an impact.

Evans wrote a letter to his local paper the Brattleboro Reformer emphasizing the importance of passing an excise tax on sugary drinks that would reduce consumption of these drinks and help fight the obesity crisis.

"We have only a few real options," Evans wrote. "Continue on our current course and let the cost of obesity continue to spiral, or take tangible, evidence-based steps towards improving healthcare through policy and prevention."

The paper agreed and wrote an editorial supporting the effort, “Sugary Drinks: Tax the heck out of them.” You can read it here. http://www.reformer.com/opinion/ci_27585726/our-opinion-sugary-drinks-tax-heck-out-them  And Peter’s message spread to hundreds of Vermonters.

You too can be a catalyst for change. Though the sugary drink excise tax did not pass this year, obesity is still a crisis and sugary drink consumption is far too high. Help us continue to spread the word by writing a letter to your own newspaper. 

Tell them a new study by the University of North Carolina reported this month that sugary drink sales dropped 6% on average after a sugary drink excise tax was implemented in Mexico. We should give it a chance here. Click here for a list of Vermont newspapers and the emails where you can submit your letter.

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Setting a World Record During CPR Awareness Week

What better way to celebrate National CPR Week than to help set a world record on this life-saving skill in Times Square?!

Tommy and Julie Watson of Williston, VT traveled to NYC on June 4th to help the American Heart Association set a Guinness Word Record for Most People in a CPR Relay

Tommy, as an 8th grader in 2011, set a goal of training 100 people in Hands-only CPR. Since then, he helped the American Heart Association officially launch the Hands-only CPR Campaign, and has personally trained 1,532 people in this life-saving skill.

It only made sense to have this shining star join the AHA in the Big Apple again to set the Guinness Record. To do this, the AHA had to achieve at least 250 consecutive people successfully performing at least 60 proper compressions each on a single mannequin.  There couldn’t be any repeated participants and no more than 5 seconds between each turn. 

Congratulations Tommy and Julie for joining numerous other volunteers and staff to spread our mission at this important event. Tommy, who previously receive the American Heart Association’s National Youth Advocate of the Year Award, was presented with the AHA’s Heartsaver Award for his outstanding commitment to saving lives.

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It's a Wrap! A Summary of the 2015 Vermont Legislative Session

This legislative session proved to be one of the most exciting and frustrating. I am incredibly proud of the hard work of AHA volunteers in trying to pass the first in the nation excess tax on sugary drinks to reduce obesity. We made great progress.

Preventing Obesity: Though our effort to pass a 2 cent per ounce excise tax on sugary drinks didn’t become a reality this year, this was the best campaign I have ever been a part of and our volunteer effort was simply amazing. There is no doubt this tax will become a reality in the near future. Until then, we need to keep up the chant to fight obesity and the impact of sugary drinks.

Sugary drink tax: We made history by becoming the first state to pass a sugary drink excise tax through two legislative committees.  Recognizing the importance of addressing obesity in Vermont, the House Health Care Committee passed a two cent per ounce excise tax early in the session as a way to fund important health care priorities.  The House Ways and Means Committee later passed a scaled down excise tax of ½ a cent per ounce. Though it was much less than what we hoped for, it is a real testament to the work of our Alliance and volunteers that the committee did, in fact, pass any SSB excise tax. We had hoped to move the issue through the House and bump up the tax amount in the Senate or a committee of conference so it would have a real impact on obesity in Vermont. However, with fatigue in the House setting in following battles over two other revenue bills, and a somewhat uncertain Senate, no vote was ever held in the House on the sugary drink excise tax. Lawmakers instead, chose to substitute the sugary drink excise tax with a small increase in the tobacco tax as a way to fund health care priorities. Volunteers should be very proud, though, that we kept the issue alive and constantly in the media and legislative discussions up through April. That’s pretty amazing. Thank you all for your help!

Vermont Public Radio also recently published a short summary of the SSB tax effort that you can access here. http://digital.vpr.net/post/issue-issue-2015-legislative-wrap#beverage  

Sales tax on soft drinks: The legislature this year extended the sales tax to soft drinks as part of its revenue bill. This will mean beverages that are sweetened with sugar or artificial sweeteners, including beverages with less than 50% real fruit juice, but not milk, will be taxed.

This is not the sugary drink tax we championed.Since it is a minimal tax that is only seen on the receipt after the sale (versus a significant tax per ounce of beverage where the price is seen on the shelf) it won’t change behavior. AHA board member Dr. Mary Cushman recently published an opinion piece in VT Digger discussed this importance difference and the fact that the legislature has now put Big Beverage before Vermonters twice. See below.

Big Beverage 2, Vermonters – 0 http://vtdigger.org/2015/05/20/mary-cushman-beverage-industry-2-vermonters-0/?utm_source=VTDigger+Subscribers+and+Donors&utm_campaign=3f382fa80a-Weekly+Update&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_dc3c5486db-3f382fa80a-405514605

No tax on bottled water: Though a sales tax on bottled water was originally included as part of a revenue package proposed by the Senate Finance Committee, we testified against the tax stating Vermont should not allow any barrier whether it be real or perceived to make water more costly, and the tax was removed.

Obesity prevention spending:  As noted in Dr. Cushman’s piece above, lawmakers this year actually took a step backwards in the fight against obesity by failing to restore the Governor’s $300,000 cut to CHAMPPS obesity prevention grants to communities.

Positive obesity steps: The House did pass an amendment that would have required the Health Care Reform Oversight Committee to study the impact of obesity in Vermont, especially on health care expenditures, and policy efforts the legislature could take to address obesity. Though the study requirement passed the House as part of the health care funding bill, the language was removed in the Senate.  House Health Care Committee members tried to get the study reinserted in the bill during the conference committee, but without success. 

During the debate, however, Senate Health and Welfare Committee Chair Claire Ayer said she would make obesity the first priority of her committee next session.   

Tobacco Prevention: We were successful in saving tobacco control program funding but the increase in the tobacco tax fell short.

Tobacco program funding: Though the Governor had recommended cutting $199,000 from Vermont’s Tobacco Control Program including funding for the independent Tobacco Evaluation and Review Board, its administrator and evaluation efforts, we, along with our partners in the Coalition for a Tobacco Free Vermont worked to get legislators to restore $175,000 to keep the board independent, retain its administrator and fund evaluation efforts.

Tobacco tax: Though a significant increase in Vermont’s tobacco tax was raised a few times this session, even going as high as a $2 increase at one point in the House and Senate champions working to get a $1 increase in the Senate, the final tax that was passed fell below the 10% increase in the total pack price that is needed to have a public health impact.

Lawmakers passed a $0.33 tobacco tax as the sole revenue source to raise the $3.2 million for the health care funding bill.  With a pack of cigarettes currently selling on average for $8.10 a pack, the tax would have needed to be around $0.81 to have a positive health impact – urging smokers to quit and to prevent youth from ever starting.

E-cigarettes: During the debate on S.139, the health care bill, that House passed language that would have instituted a tax on e-cigarettes the equivalent to half of that currently imposed on cigarettes, and included a ban on the use of e-cigs in workplaces, public places and cars, the Senate removed the language. This is an issue of increased interest to lawmakers since the use of these products by middle school students has tripled.

Health Care Reform/Health Access: Though the health care bill ultimately passed by the legislature was significantly whittled down it did include positive provisions: 

  • The continuation of $760,000 in cost-sharing subsidies for low-income Vermonters.
  • $940,000 to help stabilize Medicaid reimbursements to health care providers
  • $1 million earmarked for the state's Blueprint for Health managed care system.
  • $300,000 in educational loan repayments for physicians, the cost of which is split between state and federal sources.
  • The bill also added three new positions to the Green Mountain Care Board to start setting rates for health care providers and pursuing an all-payer model. 

Charitable donations: Though a cap on charitable contributions was included in an earlier version of the revenue bill, the cap ultimately was removed.  The final bill limited limited the amount filers can deduct when filing their income taxes to $15,000 for an individual and $31,500 for a household and charitable contributions and health care expenses are exempt from the cap.

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Mary Cushman and Michelle Johnston Emphasize Research and Nutrition

Vermont AHA board members Mary Cushman and Michelle Johnston joined the American Heart Association at our 2013 DC Lobby Day and enjoyed the effort so much, they made a return trip last month. And what a duo these two ladies are!

Dr. Cushman, a professor of medicine and researcher at the University of Vermont, and Johnston, a cardiac arrest survivor, let our congressional delegation know how important it is to continue the improvements made in school nutrition made by the Healthy and Hunger Free Kids Act.  Cushman stressed the need to fund National Institutes of Health research to encourage young researchers to begin a career in possible life-saving research. Johnston stressed that this important heart and stroke research is why she is here today.

Congrats ladies on a job well done!

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How to Keep the Winning Game Going

You're the Cure on the Hill isn’t the only opportunity to connect with members of Congress! As their constituents, you have the power and the RIGHT to tell them at any time to step up to the plate on the heart and stroke issues you care about most.


Here are some tips for getting your lawmaker off the bench and into the game:

 

  • Follow them on social media and send them messages on issues you care about.
  • Sign up for their e-newsletters on their websites. This is a great way to learn about events where you can meet the lawmakers in person and stay informed.
  • Work with your local AHA advocacy staff to schedule an in-district meeting. Members of Congress come home throughout the year on recess breaks, so they use this time to meet with constituents back in the district. Take advantage of their time at home and schedule a meeting to discuss the heart and stroke issues that matter to you and your family.
  • Most importantly, take action year round. Watch your inbox for calls to action from You’re the Cure and continue engaging your lawmaker through emails, phone calls and tagging them in your social media posts.

We had a real impact this week, but we need to keep the momentum going. Let's keep reminding our members of Congress that they need to step up for heart health all year round!

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