Guest Blogger: Marc Watterson, Utah Government Relations Director
Last month I had a chance to share with all of you some of the efforts we are engaged in here at the AHA|ASA in regards to making healthcare affordable for all Utahns. The governor’s Healthy Utah Plan is a wonderful example of the state finding an affordable and economically feasible approach to enhancing medical insurance coverage here in the state.
This month I would like to address another serious issue that we will be advocating for up on Capitol Hill. Many of you are aware of the ill effects that tobacco and nicotine products have on our health. When one considers the amount of change this country has seen in the past 20-30 years, it is remarkable to see the differences. Smoking in restaurants, businesses, airplanes and other public places has been extinguished. Tobacco sales have continued to decrease as people become more aware of the devastating effect that cigarettes have on their health. Utah proudly boasts the lowest tobacco use in the country. In many respects, we are doing better than ever.
Then e-cigarettes hit the market – and everything changed. Consider this:
- Recent studies show that as of 2013 e-cigarette use rates now exceed traditional cigarette use among youth. Currently nearly 6% of Utah students admit illegally using e-cigarettes—a rate that has more than tripled in the last 3 years!
- E-cigarettes contain harmful and addictive products like nicotine—a substance shown to have negative health and psychological effects, especially in adolescents.
- Data shows that taxing tobacco products is an effective means of helping people to quit and deterring youth from starting. Taxpayers in the state currently pay $542 million each year to treat tobacco-related illnesses. Taxing all tobacco products – including e-cigarettes – ensures we are helping people to quit, discouraging youth use, and saving taxpayers millions of dollars in the future!
The American Heart Association advocates for bringing all tobacco products under similar licensing rules in order to keep new products out of the hands of children. Stores and retailers who sell e-cigarettes should be held to the same standards as those who sell other tobacco and nicotine products. Licensing allows for local health departments to conduct compliance checks to ensure these are not being sold to minors.
This year we ask you to join with us to urge legislators to bring all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, under the same licensing and taxation rules, to help keep them out of the hands of children.