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

  1. Increase the cigarette excise tax by at least $1.00 per pack;
  2. Create parity between taxes on cigarettes and other tobacco products; and
  3. Fund tobacco prevention and cessation programs at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)-recommended level.
In the 2018 legislative session, a bill for Medicaid Expansion was introduced. This legislation passed and was signed by the Governor. With the implementation of this legislation an additional 400,000 people will be eligible for Medicaid in Virginia. Expansion will provide critical treatment and services to this newly covered population, including preventive services such as tobacco cessation and lung cancer screening. This legislation implements in January 2019.

Multiple bills to prohibit tobacco products in schools, including on school grounds and to strengthen the state's Clean Indoor Air Act were also introduced in the state House of Representatives and Senate. Current law prohibits smoking in some public places but allows separately-ventilated smoking rooms in restaurants and bars, and completely leaves out workplaces that are not open to the public. Unfortunately, all bills were left in their respective legislative committees and died.

Funding for tobacco prevention and cessation programs in Virginia increased by about $2 million in fiscal year 2019 from the previous fiscal year. Unfortunately, this is likely to be an increase only for this year as the increase was due to a one-time settlement of a dispute with tobacco companies over a portion of tobacco Master Settlement Agreement payments.

In 2019, priorities for the American Lung Association in Virginia will include working to ensure prevention and cessation programs are funded at a minimum at historic levels, a significant increase in the cigarette excise tax, and parity between taxes on cigarettes and other tobacco products

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