Tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the United States and in Washington. To address this enormous toll, the American Lung Association in Washington calls for the following actions to be taken by our elected officials:
- Raise the minimum legal sale age for tobacco products to 21 years of age;
- Increase funding for tobacco prevention and cessation programs; and
- Maintain the comprehensive smokefree air law.
Washington's 2017 legislative session was the longest session in history as three full special sessions were called. The largest task before the legislature was funding basic education to meet the State Supreme Court's ruling on the McCleary court case. The political divisions within the legislature provided additional challenges. This was also reflected in the small numbers of bills that were sent to the Governor for signature.
House Bill 1054 and Senate Bill 5024 proposed raising the minimum legal sale age for tobacco products to 21 years. After a successful hearing in the House, the bill moved to the House Rules committee where it remained throughout the session. The Senate version of the bill was referred to the Senate Commerce/Labor/Sports committee and didn't receive a hearing. This legislation has a large coalition supporting and lobbying for its passage. The legislation was requested by the State Attorney General and the Department of Health.
With the legislature facing budget challenges, the lost revenue resulting from this bill was one of the consistent and convincing arguments for proponents. The Governor's budget proposed $15.9 million for the estimated revenue loss.
Securing additional funding for tobacco prevention and cessation remains a priority goal for the American Lung Association in Washington. While no additional cuts were made to the state program, no additional funding was secured either leaving Washington with a meager $1.4 million in state funding for tobacco prevention and cessation.
Once again, legislation was introduced to establish special licensing for cigar lounges and retail tobacconist shops. House Bill 1919 was referred to the House Health Care and Wellness committee; it did not receive a hearing.
The American Lung Association in Washington will continue its support of policies to reduce the harmful effects of tobacco on Washingtonians. The coalition working on Tobacco 21 continues to grow. The coalition is focusing efforts on engaging youth in supporting and lobbying for this legislation. With additional grassroots support, the American Lung Association in Washington hopes to join together with the other states who have already passed Tobacco 21 laws.