1. Increase fiscal year 2018 funding for Vermont's comprehensive tobacco control program to $5.6 million;
2. Dedicate a percentage of annual tobacco tax revenue to sustain Vermont's efforts to prevent and reduce tobacco use; and
3. Raise the legal age for sale of tobacco products to 21.
After a complicated journey in the Vermont Legislature, the Governor signed into law a bill that eliminates the use of electronic cigarettes where smoking is prohibited, including in vehicles with children in car seats. The law was effective July 1, 2016.
For a second year, the Governor proposed to cut most of the budget for the state's Tobacco Evaluation and Review Board which oversees the independent evaluation of the tobacco control program. In 2015, the Lung Association and partners fought hard to restore the funding. In 2016, we lost the battle. The cut to the board's funding threatens the future of the board and ultimately, the effectiveness of the comprehensive tobacco control program.
The good news is that the fiscal year 2017 budget bill included language for "the Secretaries of Administration and Human Services, the Tobacco Evaluation and Review Board, and participating stakeholders to develop an action plan for tobacco program funding at a level necessary to maintain the gains made in preventing and reducing tobacco use that have been accomplished since their inception."
Rep. George Till, a physician, sponsored a bill to raise the legal age for sale of tobacco products to 21. The bill passed the House after a full day of debate. It contained several provisions of concern: 1) a graduated increase of the legal age over three years, 2) a corresponding cigarette tax of $.13 per pack each year, 3) an exemption for active duty military, and 4) an increase of the penalty for misrepresentation of age from $25 to $200. The bill died in the Senate but generated a lot of discussion about the state's effort to prevent and reduce tobacco use and provided a platform for strong legislation in 2017.
The American Lung Association in Vermont will continue to work with coalition partners, the American Heart Association and the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network to advance tobacco control efforts and protect Vermont's tobacco control program and smokefree policies against rollbacks. We will continue to educate policy makers, business leaders and the media of the importance of Lung Association goals to reduce tobacco use and protect public health.