Tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the United States and in Alaska. To address this enormous toll, the American Lung Association in Alaska calls for the following actions to be taken by our elected officials:
- Pass comprehensive statewide indoor smokefree law that includes electronic vape products and marijuana; and
- Pass an amendment to the youth access law, requiring tobacco license endorsements for vape/e-cig vendors and inclusion in the underage enforcement program.
Since then, the American Lung Association in Alaska has focused its efforts on educating Alaskans, including state legislators. Statewide polling shows strong and unwavering support for a statewide law with 69 percent of Alaskans in favor of a smokefree workplace law. Over 1,000 Alaska businesses and organizations have signed resolutions in support of a law in Alaska to make all workplaces 100 percent smokefree. Most recently, the cities of Fairbanks and Kodiak and Fairbanks North Star and Mat-Su Borough assemblies all passed resolutions in support a statewide smokefree indoor workplace law.
The vote count in the House and Senate for statewide smokefree remains constant at 15 of 20 members in the Senate and 30 of 40 members in the House, despite many new legislators elected to the House in 2017, as well as new House leadership. Smokefree bill co-sponsors increased from six to eight in the Senate and 11 to 19 in the House. The smokefree workplace bill again passed the Senate 15-5 in 2017, and was given two committees of referral in the House. It passed through the first committee and currently sits in the House Judiciary Committee, the final committee of referral.
The House Majority coalition has 13 members signed onto the bill as cosponsors, which is a majority of the majority. Six minority members also signed on, for a total of nearly half of all House members (19 of 40 members).
Once the House Judiciary Committee hears and moves the smokefree bill in 2018, it can finally get a full floor vote that will reflect the overwhelming support for this bill, and all Alaskans can finally be protected from secondhand smoke.
All Alaskans have the right to breathe smokefree air and deserve this simple health protection, no matter where they live or work. Alaska has made huge progress in reducing smoking rates among youth by over 60 percent. Now, however, the state is facing rising rates of exposure and use of electronic smoking devices and marijuana. Underage enforcement of e-cigarette vendors and smokefree public places will protect the health of young Alaskans especially.