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GUEST BLOG: 2020 Wyoming Legislative Session is Almost Here!

Exciting times are upon us! Not only is this the start of a new decade, but we’re about to begin a new legislative session in Wyoming on February 10th!

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One of my favorite experiences as an advocate was visiting our state capitol during Lobby Day in 2018, and since then I’ve found an incredible passion for finding and expressing my voice as a Wyoming citizen to our government. I encourage you to do the same, because you have the potential to make an enormous difference in statewide legislation that will impact policies for generations to come!

The American Heart Association’s goal is to advocate for policies and legislation that supports healthier lives and communities from local levels all the way to the national level. Each year, the AHA lobbies for regulations that will help prevent heart disease and stroke for citizens across the United States. Just to catch you up to speed, I wanted to share an update about some initiatives going on in Wyoming!

If you’ve followed along with my blog for a while, you already know that I’m passionate about the tobacco endgame. Well, I have good news Wyomingites: we’ve seen some progress recently! Not only was January 16th National #QuitLying Day, but at the beginning of the month a new federal law changing the legal age to purchase tobacco products from 18 to 21 was passed. Disclaimer: while this is monumental progress that we want to recognize, there is still a lot of work to be done in this matter. Unfortunately, Wyoming has yet to adjust its state statutes to reflect this federal law. This disconnect between state and federal legislation creates confusion for consumers, and leaves gaps of harmful opportunity for youth who are searching for outlets that will still sell them vape and other tobacco products.

According to Oil City News, law enforcement urges citizens to comply with the new federal law. However, we need your voice and action to bring this to lawmakers’ attention during this session in order to create effective change in raising the minimum sales age for tobacco products in Wyoming. We may be a small state, but it is imperative we show our youth we care about the well-being and healthy choices of their generation so Wyoming is not left behind.

We’re excited to acknowledge the new federal rule to temporarily stop the sale of some flavored e-cigarettes, but believe more action must be taken. While the media has largely portrayed that a ban is going to be enacted, that isn’t entirely true. Under this new rule, open-tank e-cigarettes in a variety of flavors can still be sold regularly. With this loophole, it’s likely youth will shift their tobacco use habits to what is available- not simply decide to give up using the products just because it isn’t available in the form they are most used to.

This isn’t something that can be done halfway; ALL flavored tobacco including vape products including mint and menthol must be removed in order to help halt the epidemic that is affecting young adults nationwide.

A lot of people may not understand the severity of the consequences of leaving menthol products on the market because they don’t initially seem as appealing when compared to fruit and candy flavors- but that’s incorrect. Marketing analysis shows large tobacco companies actually target youth and minority populations with these products. The result is that over 50% of youth cigarette use is with menthol products. I bet that’s more than you thought, too! 

That’s why we need you to take initiative in our state. This matter is too serious to let Wyoming lag behind, and your voice being heard at the local and state levels will absolutely have an impact. Today I’m asking you to help support Tobacco-21 and tobacco tax increase laws in Wyoming so future generations of Wyoming youth are prevented from ever becoming addicted. You can also urge our legislators to work to increase funding for state tobacco prevention and control programs so current users can get the resources and support they need to quit.

Thank you to all of you who have already made contact with your legislators- we’re beginning to see your hard work pay off! For everyone else: please don’t assume that the next person will do it - become an advocate with the American Heart Association today by texting HEART to 46839 or visit yourethecure.org/join. Stay tuned for ways you can get involved and take action! 

Forever your Miss Wyoming 2017 and AHA Advocate,

Cheyenne Buyert

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