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Tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the United States and in Connecticut. To address this enormous toll, the American Lung Association calls for the following actions to be taken by Connecticut's elected officials:

  1. Raise the tobacco sales age to 21;
  2. Provide state funding for tobacco prevention and cessation programs; and
  3. Close the loopholes in Connecticut's indoor smokefree air laws.
Tobacco prevention and cessation program funding suffered a huge loss in the 2018 Connecticut Legislative Session. The most disappointing and frustrating outcome of the session was the indefinite elimination of the funding for the Tobacco and Health Trust Fund. This last-minute language change in the budget completely eliminated the budget line for tobacco Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) fund deposits to the Tobacco and Health Trust Fund in Connecticut. In October 2018, the Tobacco and Health Trust Fund Board met and confirmed that there is ZERO dollars within the fund and no future planned transfer. This is incomprehensible, especially given Connecticut has one of the highest cigarette taxes in the country, and must be reversed.

As part of the MSA originally negotiated in 1998, Connecticut continues to receive more than $100 million annually. However, Connecticut has not set aside state money for tobacco prevention programs since 2015. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends Connecticut spend $32 million annually on tobacco prevention and cessation programs, yet in 15 years the state has spent only $29.2 million in total.

The other news is not all so grim. One bill which was the best attempt in years to close significant loopholes within state clean indoor air laws in the state, passed the Public Health and General Law Committees but got bogged down with a detrimental amendment in the final hours of session. Additionally, a key priority of the Lung Association to raise the retail sales age of tobacco products to 21 statewide garnered significant press and political support with 43 co-sponsors on the bill. The Lung Association looks forward to capitalizing on the progress made last session and seizing on the momentum from passage of the local Tobacco 21 ordinance in Hartford to move this issue forward in 2019.

In October 2018, the state Department of Public Health released the annual Youth Tobacco Survey results based on data collected in 2017. Overall high school student use of electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) has doubled since 2015 (from 7.2% to 14.7%). The survey found that 20 percent of high school seniors currently use ENDS.

The American Lung Association in Connecticut and our partners clearly have our work cut out for us in 2019, however there has been positive movement around the state. Cities and towns all over Connecticut are working to make their youth's health a priority by raising the tobacco sale age to 21 on a local level. The evidence is clear that we must act; the Lung Association implores Connecticut lawmakers to do more to prevent and reduce tobacco use

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