The 2017 Legislative Session has come and gone here in Utah! While there were a number of issues that were discussed in our brief 45 day session, I’d just like to take a moment to reflect on a few of the more pressing issues that American Heart Association/American Stroke Association pursued.
Last month we shared with you a recap of our successful “Heart on the Hill” Lobby Day. Our thanks to the many volunteers and advocates who spent a portion of their busy workday with us at the Hill. Those who attended Heart on the Hill had an opportunity to hear more about Safe Routes to School and Tobacco Prevention. Advocates also had a chance to hear from current and former legislators and learn what they could do to help advance causes they care about.
I want to take a moment to share with you another experience that occurred up at the legislature. Sometimes in our fight for heart-healthy polices it is important to remember that we are not alone. Many other health organizations and their volunteers are also involved with our many efforts. And sometimes we are joined by some of our most energetic advocates – our youth!
Below is a picture from the recent Youth OUTRAGE Day on the Hill. Over 400 high school students from across the state came to the Capitol to speak with their legislators about tobacco-related policies. This year, as part of my volunteer leadership role as Chair of the Utah Tobacco Free Alliance, I had an opportunity to address these amazing young men and women. Let me tell you, they are a sight to behold and a force to be reckoned with! Legislators came from all across the Capitol to come and meet with these young people and gave an ear as they discussed life-changing policies like raising the age to buy tobacco from 19 to 21.
As the session came to a close we were able to look back and assess the landscape that had just changed. As a result of our efforts, the use of e-cigarettes and hookah will no longer be able to take place indoors, important compliance checks done by local law enforcement and local health departments will continue to take place – ensuring that those who sell tobacco are not doing so to youth. Although our efforts to strengthen existing law to ensure tobacco shops are not setting up next to schools was denied a vote in the Senate, we have already begun working with local cities and health departments to see that this law is enforced more earnestly!
In closing, thank you again for your support and for your trust. On late nights at the Capitol when my feet are sore from walking, my jaw is tired from talking, and my body is tired from a long days work, it’s important to remember why we do what we do. For me, I was inspired this session by our amazing youth. I think of their efforts to see that they and their peers never pick up their first cigarette – never become shackled by a lifetime of addiction – and never have to face the consequences of the #1 cause of preventable death and disease: smoking.
For them, and for others, we continue our fight to promote heart-healthy policies in our state and throughout our cities and towns. With your help, we will build heart-healthy communities!