RHA Statement on the Introduction of ZYN to the US Market

This month, Phillip Morris International introduced ZYN, a nicotine pouch produced by Swedish Match, to the US market. This product is a small, occasionally flavored, pouch that is placed behind the lip to release nicotine to the user. Unfortunately, the product is being promoted to young American audiences through targeted social media campaigns, exposing yet another cohort of young people to the addictiveness of nicotine.

Nicotine is an addictive chemical found in e-cigs, cigarettes, and cigars. Research from the National Institutes of Health found that the health risks of using nicotine include everything from increased blood pressure to increased heart attack risk or even acute nicotine toxicity. According to the CDC, nicotine exposure in adolescence can hinder brain development.

ZYNs are “a pouch packed with problems [and] high levels of nicotine, said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer in a statement on January 21, 2024. Sen. Schumer delivered “a warning to parents, because these nicotine pouches seem to lock their sights on young kids – teenagers, and even lower – and then use the social media to hook ’em.”

Respiratory Health Association supports tighter regulation by the Federal Trade Commission and the Food and Drug Administration of all nicotine products.

“The best way for a smoker to break their addiction to nicotine is to follow a proven successful quit smoking program,” said RHA President and CEO, Joel Africk. “Unfortunately, switching to other forms of nicotine just continues the addiction and makes it easier for someone to start smoking.”

For help quitting smoking, visit RespHealth.org/CourageToQuit. Courage to Quit® is an evidence-based group or individual tobacco treatment program for adults. It is the cessation component of RHA’s integrated tobacco intervention program. Courage to Quits effectiveness has been documented in the American Journal of Public Health and is based on the work of Andrea King, PhD, a faculty member at the University of Chicago and licensed psychologist with a research background in tobacco and other addictions.

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About Respiratory Health Association

RHA has been a local public health leader in Chicago since 1906. RHA works to prevent lung disease, promote clean air, and help people live better through education, research, and policy change. To learn more, visit www.RespHealth.org.

Evanston Limits the Sale of E-Cigarettes, Flavored Tobacco, and Synthetic Nicotine

Evanston has once again shown itself to be a leader in the state of Illinois by keeping its residents safe from the health impacts of consuming tobacco products. In a City Council meeting on November 27, the Evanston City Council voted 6-3 to pass an ordinance banning the sale of all flavored e-cigarettes and flavored tobacco products – including menthol cigarettes and synthetic nicotine. Respiratory Health Association applauds the Evanston City Council, as well as the residents, advocates, and organizations that supported the protective measure. The passage of this comprehensive ban and the resulting restriction of the sale of all flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes, will help end the cycle of addiction and protect against the deadly impact of tobacco use.

“Thank you, Evanston City Council, for standing up to the tobacco industry and proposing this bold, lifesaving policy,” said Joel Africk, CEO and President of Respiratory Health Association.

Illinois General Assembly Adds E-Cigs to Smoke Free Illinois Act

May 15, 2023 – Chicago, IL – We congratulate the Illinois General Assembly on the passage of HB1540, which will now include electronic cigarettes in the Smoke-Free Illinois Act. This action shows the state’s commitment to safeguarding the well-being of its residents by reducing the potential harm associated with electronic cigarettes. This law will create a healthier and safer environment for all Illinois residents.

Under the new law, smoking e-cigarettes will be prohibited in all public places, including indoor workplaces, restaurants, bars, and public transportation. By adopting this amendment, Illinois joins a growing number of states that recognize the need to regulate e-cigarettes in the same manner as traditional tobacco products. Previously, the City of Chicago, and a handful of other communities in Illinois, had adopted similar amendments to their smoke-free laws.

This law will have a particularly positive health effect on youth and vulnerable populations, who tend to use e-cigarettes in greater numbers than the general population.

“We would like to thank the legislators and thousands of advocates who worked to make sure this law would pass,” said RHA President and CEO Joel Africk. “For more than three decades, RHA has continued to promote policies that protect kids from smoking, reduce secondhand smoke, and regulate these dangerous products that, if taken as directed, kill you.”

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Respiratory Health Association has been a local public health leader in Illinois since 1906, focusing on lung health and clean air issues. RHA works to prevent lung disease, promote clean air, and help people live better through education, research, and policy change. As a policy leader, RHA is committed to advancing innovative and meaningful tobacco control policies. We have been one of the state’s leading advocates for federal oversight of tobacco and vaping products, smoke-free laws, Tobacco 21, and other tobacco product policies.

Smoke Free Illinois 15 Years Later – More Change is Needed

February 8, 2023 – Chicago, IL – January 2023 marks 15 years since the Smoke Free Illinois Act went into effect, banning smoking in public spaces across the state. This law has saved an estimated 37,000 lives in Illinois, helped reduce heart attacks and other health problems, and saved millions of dollars in healthcare costs. And the law has helped place Illinois on the path to a generation of children who have grown up in a smoke-free world.

“How often in our lives do we have an opportunity to save a life—let alone thousands of lives?” commented Joel Africk, President and Chief Executive Officer of Respiratory Health Association (RHA), which advocated for the passage of Smoke Free Illinois. “That’s why we continue this fight to keep tobacco out of the hands of our children and reduce exposure to secondhand smoke.” Currently, RHA is working to add e-cigarettes to the Smoke Free Illinois Act and to restrict the sales of flavored tobacco products that are marketed to youth.

Tobacco advocates highlight the need for public health funding to support their efforts. Illinois currently ranks 39th in the US in funding for tobacco prevention and cessation programs. Only 7.4% of the $220 million Illinois receives annually in Master Tobacco Settlement Agreement is being used to support tobacco control programs.

The need is greater than ever to strengthen vaping restrictions and increase programming to protect our youth from the dangers of vaping and e-cigarettes.

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Respiratory Health Association has been a public health leader in Illinois since 1906, focusing on lung health and clean air issues. RHA works to prevent lung disease, promote clean air, and help people live better through education, research, and policy change. As a policy leader, RHA is committed to advancing innovative and meaningful tobacco control policies. We have been one of the state’s leading advocates for federal oversight of tobacco and vaping products, smoke-free laws, Tobacco 21, and other tobacco product policies.

LGBTQ+ Tobacco Use and Lung Health

During Pride Month, we celebrate LGBTQ+ communities. We also recognize people in these communities face numerous health disparities – an important reason to keep fighting for equality. Unfortunately, tobacco use among lesbian, gay, and bisexual adults is known to be significantly higher compared to the general population.

According to the CDC, 19.2% of LGB people are smokers compared to 13.8% of straight people. Transgender people have also reported higher rates of smoking in some studies. Tobacco use, primarily cigarette smoking, is the leading cause of preventable illness and death in the United States. It is a major contributor to deaths from cancer, heart disease, and lung diseases.

A history of targeted marketing from tobacco companies – particularly with flavored products like menthol – has contributed greatly to increased tobacco use among these communities.

Every year, more than 1 million people quit smoking for good. When you quit smoking, you immediately gain health benefits such as improved lung function, improved circulation and a new confidence to live a tobacco-free life

We provide resources and programs to help people quit smoking. It’s important to remember that LGBTQ+ smokers aren’t alone in their journey to quit. We continue to raise awareness about the dangers of smoking and programs available to help. To learn more about RHA’s quit smoking programs and other resources, click here.

 

FDA’s Proposed Rules to Prohibit Menthol Cigarettes and Flavored Cigars Will Protect Lung Health

Today the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposed product standards that ban menthol as a characterizing flavor in cigarettes and ban all characterizing flavors (including menthol) in cigars. The decision comes as the result of a citizen complaint filed by public health organizations and over a decade of advocacy efforts.

“Respiratory Health Association applauds the FDA’s decision to move forward with greater regulation of these harmful tobacco products,” commented Joel Africk, RHA’s President & Chief Executive Officer. “We continue to fight to reduce the burden of tobacco-related lung illnesses in our communities and believe removing menthol products from store shelves is the right thing to do.”

The less harsh, mint-like flavoring of menthol products makes them easier to smoke and often appeals to younger or new smokers. Additionally, tobacco companies have historically marketed these products to teens and in minority communities. Studies have shown as many as 70% of teen smokers use menthol cigarettes. Of Black smokers, nearly 85% smoke menthol cigarettes compared to 30% of all white smokers – contributing to health disparities including risk for lung disease. In total, an estimated 18.6 million current smokers use menthol cigarettes.

“Big Tobacco – a multi-billion-dollar industry – has long used menthol flavoring to target new smokers and minority communities,” continued Africk. “The FDA’s move will prevent a new generation of smokers, help address significant lung health inequities, and save lives.”

The FDA’s rules also offer protections to consumers, as enforcement will only address manufacturers, distributors, and retailers. RHA looks forward to President Biden’s administration finalizing these new rules – and helping implement a policy that focuses on improving lung health and holding the tobacco industry accountable instead of criminalizing individual use of these products.

For media inquiries, please contact Joe Siebelts at jsiebelts@resphealth.org or (312) 628-0204.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

Respiratory Health Association has been a local public health leader in Illinois since 1906, focusing on lung health and clean air issues. RHA works to prevent lung disease, promote clean air, and help people live better through education, research, and policy change. As a policy leader, RHA is committed to advancing innovative and meaningful tobacco control policies. We have been one of the state’s leading advocates for federal oversight of tobacco and vaping products, smoke-free laws, Tobacco 21, and other tobacco product policies.

Protecting Lung Health Is Our Priority

protecting lung health in IllinoisAs we get into the swing of a new year, a new session just started in Springfield. We are working with partner organizations and lawmakers on policy priorities that support healthy lungs and clean air for all.

Climate & Equitable Jobs Act (CEJA)
Passed in 2021, CEJA sets Illinois on the path to 100% clean energy by 2050. In addition, it commits millions of dollars to quickly expand transportation electrification in Illinois. This year, we will work to make sure the new law is carried out in ways that benefit air quality and lung health in all communities across the state.

Adding E-cigarettes to the Indoor Smoke-free Law
The electronic cigarette industry has continued to dodge legislation that would add their products to the current state law. Currently, this law prevents smoking in public places and places of employment. RHA is working to add e-cigarettes to the law’s language and protect the lung health of Illinois residents along the way.

Working on New Environmental Justice Plans
RHA is working with other organizations to support the Environmental Justice Act. This new bill will protect lung health in communities receiving unfair treatment under current laws.

Additional Lung Cancer Screening Funding
Lung cancer screening saves lives. In order to protect more people, we will work to secure an additional $1 million in funding from the upcoming state budget for these important health tests.

If you want to stay updated on our work during the legislative session, sign up for our email updates. In addition, you can learn more about ways to be an advocate for healthy lungs and clean air here.

Finally, you can read more about some of our past advocacy successes here.

Skokie Flavored Vaping Product Ban Falls Short

For Immediate Release

September 24, 2021

Contact: Erica Krutsch

ekrutsch@resphealth.org

Respiratory Health Association Statement on Skokie’s Ban of Certain Flavored Vaping Products

Skokie, IL – This week the village of Skokie passed an ordinance banning the sale of certain flavored vaping products within village limits. The ordinance is part of a local effort to curb tobacco use by teens, as recent surveys have shown that over 80 percent of e-cigarette users between ages 12 to 17 report flavoring as a primary reason for using a tobacco product.

Notably, the new law does not restrict the sale of menthol flavorings.

In response to the ordinance, Respiratory Health Association issued the following statement:

“Respiratory Health Association applauds the village of Skokie for taking steps to limit access to some flavored vaping products that disproportionately drive teen tobacco use today. Nicotine is an addictive, dangerous drug that harms brain development and poses other significant health risks. We only wish the ordinance had followed the science and banned menthol flavoring— one of the preferred flavors among the teens Skokie is trying to protect. In fact, research suggests that banning some flavors while still allowing menthol flavoring will simply lead to young people switching to menthol products.

The vaping industry’s illegal marketing to children has been well documented, and one of the industry’s largest players, JUUL, has been sued by the FDA for making illegal claims about the safety of their products. Additionally, no level of chemical aerosol inhalation is good for the lungs, and other long-term health impacts of these products are completely unknown.

The soothing sensation of menthol-flavored tobacco makes it easier to inhale and potentially harder to quit.  Because menthol products feel less harsh, they have greater appeal to new smokers and young people.[i]

We hope the village of Skokie will continue to develop additional measures that deter youth nicotine use, improve health equity, and protect vulnerable communities.”

[i] https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/basic_information/tobacco_industry/menthol-cigarettes/index.html

A Recap of 2021 Lung Health Advocacy Victories

Together we made great progress toward healthy lungs and clean air for all during the spring legislative session. With your support, we advocated new laws and changes to benefit the health of everyone in Illinois. Join us in celebrating these victories,:

  • RHA worked with the Illinois Department of Public Health on an advocacy effort to increase statewide funding for asthma education in Illinois. These efforts resulted in an additional $1 million in funding for school-based asthma education.
  • SB2294 will encourage more Illinoisans to quit smoking by providing expanded Medicaid coverage for FDA approved quit smoking medications, tobacco counseling services, and telephone-based quit smoking services provided through the Illinois Tobacco Quitline.
  • HB3202 will add e-cigarettes and other vapor devices to the state’s health education programs in schools.
  • SB512 will prohibit companies from marketing e-cigarettes to minors and from running misleading e-cigarette advertising.
  • HB1779 will provide easier access to care for people living with cancer by not requiring prior authorization for biomarker testing, which can guide health professionals in developing a treatment plan.
  • HB1745 will reduce out-of-pocket costs for Illinoisans’ prescription drugs, like asthma and COPD medications, by requiring insurance companies to offer plans with predictable co-pays or cap these amounts.
  • HB3498 makes innovative telehealth approaches permanent, so Illinoisans can continue to access critically needed care beyond the pandemic regardless of transportation, scheduling barriers – and with less stigma or risk to safety.
  • SB2563 expands vehicle emissions testing by permitting owners of vehicle service companies to operate an official portable emissions testing company – a win for clean air.
  • SB2133 focuses on health equity by ensuring the state reports data related to race, sexual orientation, gender identity, and disabilities for public health indicators, such as COVID infections.

Want to get involved with our advocacy efforts and help promote laws that will benefit everyone’s health? Learn more and sign-up to receive our emails here.

Building a Healthy Future Together

Your support made it possible for us to have an impact in communities throughout Illinois and beyond this past year. Together we faced new challenges, found new solutions, and made progress toward a future free of lung disease. As we come to the end of our program year, we want to share some of our work to prevent lung disease, promote clean air, and help people with lung disease live better lives.

Project STRENGTH for COPD

Thanks to support from the Learn More Breathe BetterSM program of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, we created resources that provide information on how people with COPD can live well at home. Each informational packet aims at keeping people with COPD healthy and provides guidance to help build exercise routines, manage breathing, put together a nutrition plan, and more.

Improving Our Asthma Programs

We collaborated with University of Chicago to conduct a formal evaluation of our two asthma programs – Fight Asthma Now© and Asthma Management. The evaluation showed kids and parents participating in these programs learned a lot about asthma triggers, medications, and staying healthy. The results were even better with repeat sessions.

A New Approach to Quitting

We began testing a new format for our Courage to Quit® program that helps people stop smoking. The new “rolling” model allows people to attend group Courage to Quit sessions with more flexibility, which increases accessibility and makes the program work for more people. We’re pushing forward to expand this idea and increase access to the program in the coming year.

Educational Webinar Series

In August, we launched a new educational webinar series. Lung health content reached nearly 1,000 people on important topics like COVID vaccines, women’s lung health, lung cancer screening, and environmental justice issues. Because the programs were entirely online, we were able to reach a national audience.

Funding Asthma Education

Asthma is the No. 1 cause of school absences due to chronic illness. RHA led an advocacy effort to increase statewide funding for asthma education in Illinois. These efforts resulted in an additional $1 million in funding for school-based asthma education.

group participating in event to help people living with lung disease

Lung Cancer & COPD Research

We awarded two grants to fund promising research into lung cancer and one new COPD research award. One of the lung cancer studies is looking at a specific gene mutation that can cause cancer even in non-smokers. Our annual Solovy Award for Advancement in COPD was awarded to support the research efforts of Dr. Nadia Hansel at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

School-based Asthma Policy Study

We conducted a study to see how well school staff understand current rules about asthma inhalers in schools. We found that 60% of school nurses in Illinois surveyed didn’t fully understand current rules that allow students to bring and use their inhalers in school. We will now focus some of our program resources on educating school health staff to better serve students.

Investing in Clean Air

In April, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency released a plan to invest $88.6 million in electric public transportation, school buses, and charging infrastructure for electric cars. For years RHA has given testimony and fought for money to support clean transportation because transportation is a leading cause of air pollution. This investment is a huge victory for clean air.

woman with stat about helping people with lung disease

Women’s Lung Health Research

Thanks to amazing growth in our Catch Your Breath® women’s lung health initiative, we were able to partner with CHEST Foundation to fund a new research award addressing gender disparities in lung disease. Lung disease impacts one in every six US women, and this award will increase research into the unique aspects of lung disease in women.

To learn more about the educational programs, research, and policy work your contributions support, as well as to receive updates on our work toward healthy lungs and clean air for all, sign-up for our monthly newsletter.

If you’d like to support RHA’s work to prevent lung disease, promote clean air, and help people living with lung disease, you can donate here.