With 2019 being the first year of the two-year biennium, legislators had the tall task of writing the state’s budget and sifting through thousands of proposed bills. A lot was accomplished, including some important wins for the American Heart Association.
After five years of hard work by stakeholders, tremendous leadership from state agencies and legislators, and lots of support from people in every part of the state, Washington raised the legal sale age for tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, to 21. The law goes into effect January 1, 2020. This policy will do a lot to restrict access to these products that youth have through their peer group, preventing early addiction to nicotine and years of tobacco-related disease. To further amplify this work, we will continue to seek state investment in the state Tobacco and Vapor Product Prevention Program. So, while the work is not done, but let’s take a moment to celebrate the historic win of passing Tobacco 21 – hooray!
hero_image_alt_text===Picture of the Washington Capitol building
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The Legislature made an important first-ever investment in the Fruit and Vegetable Incentive Program which provides greater access to healthy fruits and vegetables for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants. When shopping at farmers’ markets and select retailers, SNAP participants can double their purchasing power for fruits and vegetables. This program has been piloted in much of the state thanks to a federal grant. As the Department of Health begins the application process for another round of federal funding, the Legislature’s investment will do a lot to show the state’s commitment to the program and hopefully position us well for future funding and continued access to healthy foods for many of our friends and neighbors.
The Legislature also took steps to improve the health and access to health care for Washingtonians of all ages, including investments in the Healthy Kids, Healthy Schools program which provides grant funding to districts seeking to purchase kitchen equipment for scratch cooking, physical education equipment, supplies for school gardens or Safe Routes to School projects and more. Many people are also likely glad to hear the Legislature passed a bill for a health insurance public option; it will make an easier-to-understand standardized plan available for individuals on the state exchange starting in 2020.
I have to end this recap with a sincere thanks to all of you, our grassroots advocates. Thank you for sticking with us on policy change that can take years to achieve, and for embracing new and emerging policies. We hope you’ll continue to share in our commitment to improving the health of all Washingtonians.