Tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the United States and in Wisconsin. To address this enormous toll, the American Lung Association calls for the following actions to be taken by Wisconsin's elected officials:
- Protect and increase funding for the Tobacco Prevention and Control Program;
- Equalize the tax on little cigars (brown cigarettes) with regular cigarettes; and
- Pass legislation that places ALL tobacco products behind the counter or in a locked cabinet.
Even more disappointing, Senate Bill 307/Assembly Bill 225, which would have required all tobacco products to be placed behind the counter or in a locked cabinet, did not pass. The bill had strong, bi-partisan co-sponsorship in both house and overwhelming support from numerous statewide health organizations. After a hearing before the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Small Business, and Tourism, it was passed 9-0 and moved to the Senate floor where it passed on a voice vote. The Assembly Committee on State Affairs also held a public hearing where numerous individuals testified in support and none against, but then stalled. Subsequently, the bill did not advance before the end of the session.
Work continued on the local level with several major e-cigarette victories in 2018. The City of Milwaukee passed an ordinance that prohibits the use of e-cigarettes anywhere that smoking isn't allowed. That city was joined by the cities of Oak Creek, Beaver Dam, Neenah and Grant County. Other communities, such as Appleton and Juneau made advances in clean outdoor air by passing laws limiting the use of cigarettes, e-cigarettes and other tobacco products in parks and recreational areas.
Due to the skyrocketing rise in e-cigarette and other tobacco products use, particularly flavored products, Wisconsin has created an awareness campaign aimed at parents, Tobacco is Changing, with a tagline that says, "Tobacco is Changing, parents. We've got to keep up." The campaign includes paid advertising and on-line videos, social media and a website that familiarizes parents and adults with the new products and the issues surrounding them, provides opportunities to take action, and connects viewers with resources available through the state Tobacco Prevention and Control Program.
While the American Lung Association in Wisconsin will continue to work with local tobacco control coalitions to strengthen community tobacco control ordinances, the most sweeping progress is still made at the state level. The Lung Association will continue to focus on passing legislation that requires that ALL tobacco sales be clerk assisted, create tax parity between cigarettes and little cigars and advocate to increase funding for the state Tobacco Prevention and Control Program. The Lung Association hopes that new governor Tony Evers and the legislature can work together to make positive advancements in tobacco control in 2019
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