Standing Up Against Cigars in Washington

(March 28, 2013)

Picture of Dr. Steve Shield at the National Advocacy Day in Washington, DC
Dr. Steve Shield on Capitol Hill during the American Lung Association's 2013 Annual Advocacy Day.

 

No sweetheart deals for cigars!

That was the message that Lung Association staff and volunteers delivered last week during our annual Advocacy day. Storming Capitol Hill, we urged Members of Congress to oppose dangerous legislation that would weaken the Tobacco Control Act and exempt some cigars from the FDA's authority.

Dr. Stephen Shield, who serves on the Lung Association in Virginia's Leadership Council, joined our DC staff for the day to advocate for lung health. We met with the offices of Senators Mark Warner and Time Kaine and Congressmen Jim Moran (VA-8) and Rob Wittman (VA-1).

We were armed with facts about the bill we wanted each Member of Congress to oppose, and with statistics about cigar use. The proposals to exempt cigars from oversight would be particularly harmful to kids due to the deliberate tactics of tobacco companies to market certain cigars to kids under 18. In fact, although the rate of cigarette use has declined, consumption of loose tobacco and cigars, especially amongst our youth, grew 123 percent between 2000 and 2011. Across the country, 3,000 kids try their first cigar every day!

Just as impactful as these statistics were the personal stories that Dr. Shield told from his firsthand experiences treating children with asthma and people with lung disease in the Williamsburg area. The Congressional staff we talked to hung on to his every word, asked good questions, and promised to relay our message to members.

Advocates from throughout Virginia also supported our efforts by participating in a call-in day. The numerous calls asking their representatives to oppose a sweetheart deal for cigars strengthened our impact and ensured our message was echoed throughout the Commonwealth. Thanks to our volunteers and advocates, Senators Warner and Kaine and Virginia's members of the House of Representatives heard our message loud and clear!