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Local Governments Aren’t Waiting for States to Raise Smoking Age

Last month, Massachusetts became the sixth state to boost its legal smoking age to 21. While two dozen other states considered similar bills this legislative session — and many likely will do so again in 2019 — much of the groundswell of activity isn’t happening in state capitols.

A growing number of local governments are acting on their own to ban the sale of tobacco products to anyone under 21. At least 340 towns, cities and counties in 21 states have taken action, compared with about 200 in 14 states in 2016.

They include not only major cities such as Minneapolis, New York City and San Antonio, but also small communities such as Basalt, Colorado, and Holcomb, Kansas.

Anti-tobacco advocates point out that raising the buying age would save lives and cut long-term health care costs — most smokers begin the habit before age 19 — while opponents fear the hits on retail sales and local tax revenue. The push for change continues as cigarette use among teens has declined in recent years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And the use of electronic cigarettes, or vaping, has become much more popular.

The actions by local boards of health, city councils and county commissions to raise the smoking age are making legislators in some state capitols take notice.

“It springs up spontaneously, like little wildfires,” said Rob Crane, a medical doctor and president of Tobacco 21, a Dublin, Ohio-based advocacy group that supports raising the minimum age to 21. “These are folks who are your neighbors. When you approach city council members in a small town in California or Ohio or New Jersey, they listen.”

Split down the aisle: Second Tobacco 21 hearing brings out support on both sides

The Otter Tail County commissioners held a second public hearing on Monday night to hear public opinions about the Tobacco 21 ordinance they are considering implementing county wide to restrict access to tobacco and nicotine products to those under the age of 21.

Otter Tail County Public Health Director Diane Thorson gave a short presentation on why the ordinance was proposed and some of the data surrounding the issue presented to the county.

“What you can see is some of the cigarette use is going down but e-cigarette use, beginning in 2014, when they started capturing data on that, began to rise significantly,” Thorson said.

Approximately 60 people showed up to the public meeting and approximately 25 spoke, taking up the whole hour and a half period of time allocated to public comment. There were several comments both supporting the ordinance and not supporting the ordinance.

“Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death and disease in Minnesota and many of the diverse populations we serve are disproportionately affected by tobacco,” Otter Tail Family Service Collaborative Coordinator, Troy Haugen said. “I am particularly alarmed because we are seeing an uptick in tobacco usage in classrooms and schools.”

Cullerton says lawmakers will try to override Tobacco 21 veto

Senate President John Cullerton said Tuesday the legislature will try to override Gov. Bruce Rauner’s veto of a bill raising the legal sales age for tobacco products in Illinois from 18 to 21.

Cullerton acknowledged that securing enough votes to override the veto will be difficult. However, if the effort fails this fall, Cullerton said another attempt to raise the age will be made next year and he will lead it.

“If (an override) is not successful, we will reintroduce this bill and try to pass it as soon as possible next year,” Cullerton said, adding that he plans to “steal” it from Sen. Julie Morrison, D-Deerfield, this year’s principal sponsor.

Juul, e-cigarette popular among teens, being investigated by FDA

The Food and Drug Administration says it is preparing to launch a campaign to discourage teens from using e-cigarettes, also known as vaping. The FDA is also investigating the marketing strategies and impact of several vaping products, including the most popular e-cigarette, Juul, which is estimated to make up 72 percent of the e-cigarette market.

The agency says its new campaign is just part of its effort to find out why e-cigarette use is rampant among teenagers, and how to stop it. At the same time, parents are launching their own effort and asking why the government isn’t doing more, reports CBS News’ Anna Werner.

Meredith Berkman, a mother of four, says she couldn’t sit and wait for the government to stop kids from using Juul. So she and two other moms recently launched the grassroots group Parents Against Vaping E-cigarettes to educate about the dangers of e-cigarettes, advocate against their use and lobby for legislative action.

“This is coming to epidemic proportions and it’s dangerous,” Berkman said. “I know what these teens are doing and I don’t want my 11-year-old to get caught up in that either, and we have to act about that now.”

. . .

In January of this year, Juul began a pilot program directed at schools, suggesting it could help discourage e-cigarette use. In emails obtained by CBS News, its consultant wrote the program was designed to “provide either an in-school program or a Saturday school alternative to discipline” and that Juul would fund the program. But some educators were skeptical and Juul has since dropped the idea, telling us in a statement, “We soon learned through feedback from schools, educators and policymakers that our efforts were largely discouraged.”

“I’m not surprised that this program got bad reviews,” said Matt Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

He says the Juul school program resembled prior tobacco industry efforts.

“School administrators wisely recognized that it’s simply an effort to get the name of the company before kids in a favorable way. Thus it is responsible administrators who said, ‘We don’t want you in our schools, we will educate our children,”‘ Myers said.

Juul denies that it resembled prior tobacco industry programs. The company says it’s working with the Iowa attorney general to stop teen use of Juul. It says it’s also trying to restrict youth access to Juul and is focused on helping adult smokers switch to Juul from regular cigarettes.

Tobacco 21 starts today!

The age to purchase tobacco in Sitka rises from 19 to 21 as of today (Wednesday, August 22, 2018). Health educator Amanda Roberts explains that the Tobacco 21 project is an effort to reduce teen initiation into smoking, and to create a smoke-free generation. She’s joined by Sitka Police Chief Jeff Ankerfelt, Sitka community affairs director Maegan Bosak, and AC Lakeside manager Gregg Dahl.