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 calls for the following actions to be taken by Washington's elected officials:
- Increase funding for tobacco prevention and cessations programs;
- Raise the sales age to 21 for tobacco products; and
- Defend smokefree workplace laws.
During the 2017 legislative session, House Bill 1054 had passed out of both the House Committee on Health Care and Wellness and the House Finance Committee. At the beginning of the 2018 regular session, by resolution, the legislation was retained in the Rules Committee, and referred to the Finance committee, where it was again passed out of the committee. On March 7, 2018, the bill was debated on the House Floor with very passionate floor speeches on tobacco and the effect tobacco has had on members' families and friends. The bill passed the House with bipartisan support with 63 yes votes and 35 no votes. Unfortunately, the 2018 session ended before the bill could begin its process through the Senate.
House Bill 1919 would establish licensing for cigar lounges and retail tobacconist shops. This legislation saw no activity during the 2018 session.
The spending authority for Washington's Youth Tobacco & Vapor Products Prevention Account was reduced by $1.6 million by the legislature. Despite this, funding for tobacco prevention and cessation in fiscal year 2019 was roughly the same as the previous year at about $1.5 million. However, this small amount of state funding is wholly inadequate for the task of effectively preventing and reducing tobacco use.
The American Lung Association in Washington will continue to work with stakeholders and engaged grassroot supporters to advocate for policies to reduce tobacco use and its health impact on Washington residents. Building on our momentum from the 2018 legislative session, the Lung Association will continue to support Tobacco 21 and use the increased awareness of tobacco to provide the foundation to increase appropriations for tobacco prevention programs
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