RHA’s policy team has been hard at work advancing state and local lung-friendly legislation in Illinois. Here’s what we have achieved with your generous support and advocacy.
Tobacco 21 Policies Gain Momentum
The age of 21 is important for tobacco prevention since 95 percent of smokers start before the age of 21. The majority of underage tobacco users get their tobacco from their peers. Raising the sales age to 21 would mean that high school aged adolescents would be in separate social networks from those who are most likely to supply them tobacco.
Aurora, Glen Ellyn, Peoria and Skokie recently adopted local Tobacco 21 laws in the last two months. That makes 24 municipalities in total covering 3,890,223 residents (30 percent of total state population covered). Legislation taking Tobacco 21 statewide passed the Illinois Senate last month and awaits a hearing in the Illinois House. Contact your State Representatives now to let them know you support Tobacco 21.
RHA Leads Efforts to Help Schools Handle Asthma Emergencies
Access to emergency asthma medication can save lives. Asthma takes a staggering toll on Illinois families, causing more than 300,000 missed school days and nearly 150 deaths each year, in addition to increasing healthcare costs for emergency department visits. The ‘Stock Emergency Asthma Rescue Medication’ bill would help school districts in Illinois better serve students with asthma by permitting schools to voluntarily maintain a stock of asthma rescue medication and permitting trained staff to administer the medication during episodes of respiratory distress. This legislation passed the Illinois Senate with unanimous support and awaits a hearing in the Illinois House.
Illinois House Advances Medication Coverage Protections
Families in Illinois shop carefully for a health plan that provides the benefits they need. But no laws in Illinois prohibit changes in coverage during the course of the policy year while consumers are locked into their plans. Midyear reductions in coverage often cause “non-medical switching” – the practice in which stable patients are forced off their original medications, regardless of clinician recommendations and health consequences. Patients who rely on medications to keep their health stable should be able to shop for coverage without fear that their benefits will be changed or eliminated during the policy year. The legislation passed the Illinois House and awaits hearing in the Illinois Senate.
New Chicago Ordinances Target ‘Other Tobacco Products’
In April, the Chicago City Council passed an ordinance with a number of initiatives to target ‘other tobacco products’ (non-cigarette products). The new ordinance requires tobacco retailers in Chicago to post warnings at the store entrance addressing the dangers of other tobacco products. Other tobacco products like little cigars, cigarillos, and other cigarettes are often starter products for youth and young adults. Among these populations, there is considerable misinformation about the health risks and addictive nature of these products. While Chicago’s youth cigarette smoking rate reached historic lows this year, surveys show that Chicago teens now smoke cigars and e-cigarettes at greater numbers than cigarettes. The ordinance also bans free samples and further limits the use of tobacco coupons in Chicago.
Unfair Subsidies for Old Coal-Fired Power Plants in Illinois
Vistra Energy—which recently bought the company that owned nine of Illinois’ oldest coal power plants—is asking Illinois to make state residents pay higher prices for their coal plant-generated electricity—even though the power plants are already profitable. This is occurring at a time when billions of dollars are being invested in building new clean wind and solar power projects in Illinois. RHA opposes the subsidies for dirty coal.
Separately, but at the same time, Vistra is asking for the Illinois Pollution Control Board to relax air pollution rules for its coal fired power plants so that it has greater freedom to shut down coal power plants with pollution controls and to run dirtier plants without pollution controls harder, increasing air pollution. Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan is opposing this air pollution increase as well. RHA continues to fight both of these efforts aimed at prolonging the use of dirty coal power.
Allowing Communities to Ban the Use of Toxic Coal Tar Pavement Sealants
The original language would have allowed counties and municipalities to ban the use of coal tar sealants high in carcinogenic materials, including materials linked to lung cancer. While discussions were held to move this legislation forward, details could not be worked out before the legislative deadline passed.
Keeping the Legal Authority to Test and Ticket Polluting Trucks
This bill would eliminate the authority of the Illinois State Police to stop, test and ticket excessively smoking trucks in the Chicago and E. St. Louis regions. In testimony last week, the State Police conceded they have not been enforcing this law since 2005 when they broke their smoke testing equipment, and have not replaced it since. RHA testified in favor of keeping the legal authority to test and ticket big trucks, as many polluting trucks remain on the road and excessive smoke worsens both respiratory conditions and heart conditions. We noted that other states like New Jersey continue to test trucks and have even stricter limits on tailpipe pollution than Illinois law. Unfortunately the State Police’s claim that they would have to spend up to $1 million to replace the equipment, among other reasons, meant legislators have continued to support eliminating powers the state police have not used in recent years.
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