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More than 750 Lung Health Advocates to Rally at State Capitol; Raise minimum sales age for tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, to 21

Advocates also urging support for sustaining Master Settlement Agreement funds for lifesaving tobacco cessation, prevention programs, services

(May 7, 2019) - HARRISBURG, Penn.

On Tuesday, May 7, 2019, the American Lung Association in Pennsylvania will host more than 750 lung health advocates, including youth, from across Pennsylvania, at a press conference at Soldiers Grove at noon; rallying for Pennsylvania lawmakers to support strong Tobacco 21 legislation that will protect Pennsylvania's kids from a lifetime of addiction as well as the death and disease associated with tobacco products. In addition, urging support for preserving funding for lifesaving tobacco cessation, prevention programs, services.

Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the U.S., and increasing the sales age for all tobacco products could have a big impact on youth tobacco use in Pennsylvania and across the nation. According to a 2015 report from the National Academy of Medicine, nationwide 223,000 deaths can be prevented among people born between 2000 and 2019, including 50,000 fewer dying from lung cancer, the nation's leading cancer killer.

While overall adult and youth cigarette smoking rates are at historically low levels because of tobacco prevention and cessation programs, e-cigarette use has increased rapidly among youth nationwide. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, use of e-cigarettes among high school students increased by 78 percent from 2017 to 2018, leading the Food and Drug Administration to declare an epidemic. E-cigarettes are the most commonly used tobacco products among youth. According to a 2018 CDC study, the primary reasons teens use these products are because the candy and fruit flavors are appealing to them, their friends and family are using them, and they think e-cigarettes are less harmful.

"Every year, 5,100 new Pennsylvania youth become regular daily smokers, and one-third of them will die a premature death as a result.  In Pennsylvania, the High School tobacco use rate is 18.7 percent," said Brown.   "Tobacco is a highly addictive product, and close to 95 percent of smokers try their first cigarette by the age of 21. More must be done to prevent and reduce youth tobacco use in Pennsylvania, and one powerful tool is increasing the minimum age of sale for tobacco products to 21," noted Brown. Pennsylvania would join the District of Columbia and twelve states – Arkansas, California, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, Utah, Virginia and Washington have led the way to increase the age of sale from 18 to 21.

"The National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine concluded there is 'substantial evidence' that if a youth or young adult uses an e-cigarette, they are at increased risk of using traditional cigarettes," said Deborah P. Brown, Chief Mission Officer, American Lung Association. "The Food and Drug Administration has not found any e-cigarette to be safe and effective in helping smokers quit. If smokers are ready to quit smoking for good, they should call 1-800-LUNG-USA or talk with their doctors about finding the best way to quit using FDA-approved treatments and counseling."

More than 650 youth advocates from the TRU (Tobacco Resistance Unit) will join OVER 100 adult advocates in Harrisburg in support of strong Tobacco 21 legislation that will protect Pennsylvania's kids from a lifetime of addiction as well as the death and disease associated with tobacco products. In addition, urging support for preserving funding for lifesaving tobacco cessation, prevention programs, services. TRU is a movement throughout all of Pennsylvania to help youth, between ages 12 and 18, stay tobacco free, and aims to prevent and stop youth tobacco use through education and advocacy. A statewide movement, TRU is managed by the Pennsylvania Alliance to Control Tobacco (PACT) and the American Lung Association in Pennsylvania.

"Today we represent the voice of the nearly 2,700 hundred TRU members across the Commonwealth, we held more than 185 meetings with policy makers asking them to raise the minimum sales for all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes from 18 to 21!" said TRU member Matthew Kelly, Holy Cross High School student in Lackawanna County. "We stand here united in our cause to prevent the next generation of becoming lifelong addicts of tobacco," said Kelly.

Brown further detailed, "Pennsylvania's funding for proven tobacco prevention and cessation programs falls woefully short of the $140 million recommended annually by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Governor's budget proposed level funding at $16.975 million for FY20. These programs include youth tobacco prevention programs; cessation programs for youth and adults; tobacco retailer compliance checks; tobacco free parks, worksites, and multiunit housing.

In Pennsylvania, smoking is estimated to cost over $6 billion in direct healthcare costs, including over $2 billion in Medicaid costs. Additionally, Pennsylvania experiences over $5.7 billion in productivity losses annually attributable to smoking.

Evidence-based, statewide tobacco control programs that are comprehensive, sustained, and accountable have been shown to reduce tobacco use rates, as well as tobacco-related diseases and deaths. Research shows that the more states spend on comprehensive tobacco control programs, the greater

"By maintaining funding for Pennsylvania tobacco prevention and cessation programs, lawmakers have the power to prevent kids from starting to use tobacco, help people already addicted to tobacco to quit and make certain we don't lose the gains that we have made. Put the health of Pennsylvanians first. Fund Pennsylvania's tobacco prevention and cessation programs at $16.975 million," said Brown." That's why on May 7, advocates also urge support on preserving funding for lifesaving tobacco cessation and prevention programs and services throughout Pennsylvania."

Learn more about smokefree efforts in the Commonwealth in the American Lung Association's "2019 State of Tobacco Control" report. For media interested in attending the rally or in speaking with an expert about tobacco control and youth use of tobacco or MSA funding, contact the National Assistant Vice President of Patient Engagement, Annette Eyer @ [email protected]  or 717-971-1124, 717-433.7109 (cell).

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About the American Lung Association

The American Lung Association is the leading organization working to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease, through research, education and advocacy. The work of the American Lung Association is focused on four strategic imperatives: to defeat lung cancer; to improve the air we breathe; to reduce the burden of lung disease on individuals and their families; and to eliminate tobacco use and tobacco-related diseases. For more information about the American Lung Association, a holder of the coveted 4-star rating from Charity Navigator and a Gold-Level GuideStar Member, or to support the work it does, call 1-800-LUNGUSA (1-800-586-4872) or visit: Lung.org.

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