Opposition to Proposed Watered-Down Chicago Tobacco Control Ordinance

For Immediate Release

September 4, 2020

 

Opposition to Proposed Watered-Down Chicago Tobacco Control Ordinance

 

September 4, 2020 – Chicago, IL – Today the Chicago City Council Committee on Health and Human Relations met to vote on a revised and greatly weakened ordinance to regulate the sale of flavored tobacco products in Chicago. Respiratory Health Association’s President & Chief Executive Officer, Joel Africk, has issued the following statement in opposition to the revised ordinance. This statement was originally given as testimony during the committee meeting.

“Good morning Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee. Respiratory Health Association opposes the watered-down flavored tobacco substitute ordinance.  Chicago needs restrictions on all flavored and menthol products, including conventional cigarettes that are killing our vulnerable communities.  This ordinance is unanimously opposed by Respiratory Health Association, the American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society, and the American Lung Association—the local patient service organizations who have spent the past 30 years advising Chicago government on tobacco control policy.

For almost 20 years—and until today– Chicago has had an unblemished record of getting tough on Big Tobacco. That record has driven smoking rates in Chicago to their lowest rates on record.  In each case, the key has been to reject the watered-down versions of laws deemed as more acceptable to the tobacco industry.  You see, the Big Tobacco playbook says to oppose tobacco control until it is inevitable, and then water it down as much as possible to preserve cigarette sales.  That tactic works because the watered-down ordinances relieve the political pressure to do something more comprehensive. That’s a pretty effective tactic.   Watered-down ordinances relieve political pressure.  And the legislature can always claim “at least we did something.”

In December 2005, with unanimous support from the service organizations, this Council passed one of the strongest smoke-free laws in the United States, under the leadership of Ald. Ed Smith.  The Council did so because it didn’t take a watered-down deal. There were offers of watered-down deals. “No smoking in restaurants but not bars.”  “Exclude Chicago’s private clubs.”  The watered-down offers kept flowing.  But this Council said no, and it passed a comprehensive Chicago smoke-free ordinance that saves an estimated 2500 lives a year.  Chicago resisted the same argument being advanced here, that a weaker watered-down ordinance would “do some good” and be a stepping stone on the way to solving a public health problem that is addicting and killing our community in record numbers.

The specific problem with the watered-down substitute ordinance here is that it lets people addicted to vaping simply switch back to flavored cigarettes, including menthol cigarettes, and continue their addiction.  You don’t have to take my word for it.  That is what Altria, the parent of Philip Morris, acknowledged in July 2020 in the Wall Street Journal.  Vaping-only restrictions, like the one before you, have caused sales of conventional cigarettes to increase.  It’s like plugging one leak in your pipe and leaving the other leaks un-repaired.

So, who wins and who loses from the passage of this substitute ordinance instead of the alderman’s original ordinance?  It’s easy to see who wins.  Big Tobacco wins.  The tobacco companies get to sell more cigarettes, including flavors and menthol, to Chicagoans. The ordinance gives young people who vape a chance to move to conventional cigarettes.  That is what Altria reported.  So we know who wins.

And who loses?  Who typically loses these things?  How about the vulnerable populations with high smoking rates, especially for menthol cigarettes, including young African American Chicagoans, who have already increased smoking regular cigarettes by 30% in the past two years?  They need a comprehensive solution to the problem, but instead they will continue to live with increased heart disease, lung disease, and cancer.  All because the substitute ordinance doesn’t solve the real problem.   Aren’t they the ones who always lose?

That is why this substitute ordinance is opposed by all of the local service organizations.  We pick up the pieces from what the tobacco industry lobbyists and some selfish retailers leave behind.  We see the patients who are sick.  We help people addicted to tobacco break their addiction. And we are trying to end the racial disparities in so many diseases tied to tobacco use.  It would be better to pass no ordinance at all, and let the political pressure build for true tobacco control in the City of Chicago.

We ask you to reject the substitute ordinance.”

Teen Vaping Rates Soar as Researchers Find COVID-19 Link

Teen Vaping Rates Soar as Researchers Find Link to COVID-19 Infection

CDC Study Shows Urgent Need for Federal, State, and Local Action to Reduce Youth E-Cigarette Use

Contact: Erica Krutsch, Director, Marketing & Communications
734-262-4527 | [email protected]

Chicago, IL – The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently released new findings on youth tobacco use, including e-cigarettes and vaping products, as part of the 2019 Youth Risk Behavior Survey.

The survey found that nationally 32.7% of high school students used e-cigarettes in 2019. That number represents a 148% increase since 2017. In Illinois, the survey found nearly 20% of high school students used vaping products, a 51% increase, and in Chicago, 12.4% of high schoolers vaped, which is an 88% increase.32.7% of high school students used e-cigarettes in 2019

“The data show that Illinois and Chicago have made more progress in addressing the teen vaping crisis than some areas of the country, but there is still work to be done,” says Joel Africk, President and Chief Executive Officer at Respiratory Health Association, a Chicago-based lung health organization. “We know e-cigarettes are dangerous, and we need to do everything in our power to prevent a generation of kids from starting.”

The CDC findings come less than two weeks after a Stanford University study found that young people who smoke or use e-cigarettes are five times more likely to contract coronavirus than nonsmokers. Preliminary research also suggests that smokers infected with COVID-19 are nearly 1.5 times more likely to have severe symptoms and 2.5 times more likely to be admitted to the ICU, need mechanical ventilation, or die compared to non-smokers.

“Emerging research has already shown that e-cigarette use may increase coronavirus infection and cause more severe cases of lung disease – and we are only beginning to understand the lasting health impacts of this virus,” commented Ravi Kalhan, MD, Director, Asthma and COPD Program at Northwestern University and RHA board member. “Just a year after we first saw unprecedented cases of lung illness related to vaping, and now facing the COVID-19 pandemic, it is especially concerning to see a growing number of teens are putting themselves at risk by using e-cigarettes.”

Respiratory Health Association advocates strengthening state and local indoor clean air laws to include e-cigarette and vaping use and banning flavored tobacco products that entice young people to start smoking as meaningful ways to curb teen vaping.

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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. A policy leader, our organization remains 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. For more information, visit resphealth.org.

FDA’s New E-Cigarette Policy Isn’t Enough to End Youth Vaping Epidemic

For Immediate Release

Chicago, IL January 02, 2020 – Today the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued new policies regarding enforcement against certain flavored e-cigarette products. These new policies, however, will fall far short of what is needed to keep teens away from these addictive nicotine products.

By only restricting flavors in cartridge-based products and allowing menthol flavorings to remain on the market in all forms, the FDA is leaving too many ways for Big Tobacco to target and addict kids across the country.

“Nicotine is an addictive, dangerous drug that harms brain development and poses other significant health risks,” says Joel Africk, President and CEO, Respiratory Health Association. “No level of chemical aerosol inhalation is good for the lungs, and other long-term health impacts of these products are completely unknown.”

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.

“We cannot trust companies profiting off addiction with the health and safety of our nation’s children,” continues Africk.

The FDA’s new policy comes in response to skyrocketing rates of youth e-cigarette use. Currently one out of every four high school students reports using e-cigarettes and the majority report using products in candy and fruit flavors.

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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. A policy leader, our organization remains 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.

Let’s Work Together to Stop Youth Vaping

Our progress against tobacco is in peril.

In the last 10 years, we’ve worked to create a smoke-free world. We worked toward the passage of the Smoke-Free Illinois Act in 2007, following our success on the Smoke-Free Chicago law in 2005. We educated our legislators on the importance of point-of-sale policy – limiting the ways tobacco companies can advertise in stores.

This year, we raised the tobacco purchase age to 21 – a strategy proven to get cigarettes out of high school social circles and prevent youth smoking.

Together, we’ve shown our government that we want everyone to have access to clean air and be free from Big Tobacco’s lies and predatory marketing.

Yet, as a nation we sit in the middle of a teen vaping epidemic. Despite the vaping industry’s claims of not targeting youth, new investigations show some of the biggest players knowingly tried to addict teens to nicotine. Research now suggests that 1 out of every 4 teenagers has used vaping products.

Parents are concerned. Friends are concerned. Respiratory Health Association is ready to fight.

young students

We will not let vaping turn back our progress. We will do everything we can to prevent a generation of kids from developing dangerous nicotine addiction. RHA is responding to the need in our community.

We are:

  • Preparing for the upcoming Illinois General Assembly session. We are working with legislators to add e-cigarettes to the Smoke-Free Act of Illinois.
  • Collaborating with other health organizations to bring policy forward on banning flavored e-cigarettes.
  • Providing vaping presentations for teens at school and developing a presentation for school staff to deliver directly to students.
  • Incorporating guidance for quitting vaping into our evidence-based tobacco cessation programs.

Want to help your local lung health organization fight for a generation free from nicotine? Consider donating to support our programs, or sign-up to receive e-advocacy alerts to get up-to-date information on our efforts and how you can help lend your voice to our cause.

To learn more about electronic cigarettes and how to talk to teens about the risks of vaping, explore our resources.

Statement Supporting a Flavored Tobacco Ban and Recall of Vaping Products

Media Contact: Erica Krutsch

Office: 312-628-0225

September 23, 2019 – Chicago, IL – Today, Respiratory Health Association’s (RHA) President and CEO Joel Africk called for a flavored tobacco ban and e-cigarette product recall at the Illinois House of Representatives Mental Health Committee hearing on the Vaping Crisis. Africk called for a ban on flavored tobacco products of all types, including e-cigarettes, and the removal of all vaping products from store shelves until it can be determined why eight people have died and hundreds more have been sickened by these products.

At the hearing, Africk gave the following remarks:

This crisis is growing and it’s growing fast. Action is needed now. The federal government is dragging its feet on taking action so we need the State of Illinois to act now to protect against further illness and death.

There is a lack of safety data on either the long-term or short-term health effects of inhaling chemicals previously untested for human consumption. There are known carcinogens contained in the supposedly “harmless” water vapor from e-cigarettes.  There is an epidemic of e-cigarette use among our children, which means we will face yet another generation of nicotine addicts—all at a time that cigarette smoking by children was in sharp decline.

The vaping industry, which is aligned and partly owned by Big Tobacco, has failed to take any decisive and immediate voluntary efforts in the vaping industry to protect the public. Until this crisis, the industry strongly opposed FDA efforts to test the safety of its products pre-market.  And after this crisis arose, at most, there has been a series of measured actions intended to cut off a broader regulatory response. We should not expect anything more from an industry that has deceptively marketed its harmful products.

The only solution given an industry like this is for the government to take decisive action.  First and foremost these products must be pulled from the shelves until we know what’s killing people and making them sick. Then, to prevent further crises, we need a clear set of comprehensive regulations to protect children, adult users of vaping products and the public.  Without such action, this industry will never police itself, and we’ll undoubtedly see the number of deaths and illnesses continue to rise.

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Respiratory Health Association has been a local public health leader in Illinois since 1906. A policy leader, our organization remains 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, Tobacco 21 and Other Tobacco Product policies. For more information, visit resphealth.org.

Your Advocacy Influences Tobacco Policy Wins

Over the past 6 months, many of you personally met with dozens of lawmakers in your communities and in Springfield. RHA and advocates talked to lawmakers about Tobacco 21, clean energy jobs legislation and the dangers of tobacco and e-cigarettes. The impact of your visits, letters and emails can be felt in the many legislative initiatives that passed the Illinois Legislature this session.

Here’s an update on the tobacco control victories we achieved together!

Tobacco 21 Becomes Law in Illinois

After four years of advocacy efforts, Tobacco 21 was signed into law. The new law will take effect on July 1, 2019.  In the past few years, we had over 150 in-person visits with lawmakers where we discussed Tobacco 21. Youth advocates, volunteers with COPD, special event participants and health professionals joined RHA staff for these visits. We also had monthly in-district visits with Advocacy Champions and volunteers thanking legislators who supported lung health policies during the 2018 session.  Congratulations and thank you! Your personal stories, experiences and connections to this issue made a difference!

State Cigarette Tax to Increase by $1 per Pack

Raising the tobacco tax is one of the most effective tobacco prevention initiatives. To demonstrate support for a tobacco tax, RHA joined with partners to commission a poll that showed over 60% of Illinoisans support a tobacco tax. Increasing the Illinois cigarette tax by $1.00 per pack will generate $159.35 million in new annual revenue for the state as well as providing many health benefits:

  • Reduce youth smoking by 11 percent.
  • Prevent 28,700 kids under 18 from becoming adults who smoke.
  • Help 48,700 adults who currently smoke quit.
  • Prevent 21,000 premature smoking-caused deaths.
  • Provide $1.56 billion in long-term health care cost savings from adult and youth smoking declines.

Illinois to Tax E-cigarettes

Consistent with the federal government, e-cigs are now defined by the state as tobacco products and will be subject to licensing requirements as a result of this legislation.  E-cigarettes will now be taxed at 15% of wholesale price. This is a significant step because e-cig use is skyrocketing. Our polling also showed that 73% of Illinoisans support taxing e-cigarettes.  We applaud the Illinois Legislature for adding a tax to these addictive products.

No Smoking in Motor Vehicles

There is no safe level of secondhand smoke, and young people, in particular, are susceptible to the dangers of inhaling secondhand smoke. Legislation passed this year that will make it illegal to smoke in cars with children in the vehicle. Illinois joins eight other states that currently offer protections from secondhand smoke for minors in vehicles

RHA Advocates for Federal Investment in Prevention

Respiratory Health Association joined partners in the public health community in supporting federal legislation that aims to restore funding to the Prevention and Public Health Fund. This bill would increase the funding level starting in FY2020. Investments in prevention provide a return on investment in health care savings and improved health outcomes.

 

Thank you for your continued support in reducing the deadly toll of tobacco in our community!

If you’d like to get move involved in Respiratory Health Association’s advocacy work, become an Advocacy Champion  or e-advocate today.

Statement Applauding Signing of Statewide Tobacco 21 Law

April 7, 2019 – Chicago, IL – Today Governor J.B. Pritzker made an important stride toward a healthier future for Illinois as he signed a bill into law that raises the age to purchase tobacco products in the state from 18 to 21 years old. Special thanks to Rep. Camille Lilly who sponsored the bill and Senator Julie Morrison who championed the statewide “Tobacco 21” legislation.

A cornerstone of RHA’s work is to reduce the toll of tobacco on our communities, particularly among our youth. Tobacco 21 laws are important because 95 percent of adult smokers take up the habit before they turn 21. By raising the purchase age from 18 to 21, the law will help keep tobacco out of schools and away from teens.

“Tobacco 21 laws, like other laws inspired by public health, save thousands of lives a year.  Tobacco 21 in Illinois will reduce youth smoking and, as a result, mean fewer adult smokers, too,” said Joel Africk, president and chief executive officer of Respiratory Health Association. “Ultimately the new law will save more lives than Alcohol 21 and most other public health measures like it.”

Tobacco 21 will yield significant health and economic benefits.  The Institute of Medicine estimates that raising the tobacco purchase age to 21 could result in a 12 percent decrease in smoking rates by the time today’s teenagers become adults.

The new law has been strongly supported by a number youth advocates who joined RHA on advocacy visits and testified at local hearings. “I lost my dad in 2015 when I was 10 to lung disease and lung cancer,” says 14-year-old Ian Piet of Tinley Park. “Because of that, I am supporting tobacco 21 and other measures to help prevent lung disease.”

Respiratory Health Association estimates statewide Tobacco 21 legislation in Illinois will save the lives of more than 24,000 children alive today who otherwise would have died from tobacco-related illness. In addition the policy will save $500 million in future healthcare costs and avoid $500 million more in lost productivity associated with smoking and tobacco related illnesses.

Tobacco 21 previously passed the General Assembly in 2018, but then-Governor Bruce Rauner vetoed the measure. A majority of adults in Illinois support the law. Growing support for Tobacco 21 led to thirty-six communities across the state adopting local laws to raise the tobacco purchase age. These local laws cover approximately 30 percent of the state’s population and paved the way for statewide action.

Prior to working on Tobacco 21, RHA advocated strongly for the Smoke-free Illinois Act, which passed in 2007. That legislation was the strongest statewide smoke-free law in the country.

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Respiratory Health Association has been a local public health leader in Illinois since 1906. A policy leader, our organization remains committed to advancing innovative and meaningful tobacco control policies. We have been one of the state’s leading advocates for Tobacco 21 and Other Tobacco Product policies. For more information, visit www.resphealth.org.

RHA Statement on E-Cigarettes & Vaping Products

Respiratory Health Association Statement on Electronic Cigarettes & Vaping Products

As conventional cigarette use in the United States has declined, electronic cigarette (e-cigarette) use rates have continued to climb, particularly among youth. Vaping devices, such as the widely popularized Juul, have become a mainstay in places of education, with 42.2 percent of U.S. high school students having used an e-cigarette. Recent data show that U.S. youth e-cigarette use increased by 78 percent in 2018, prompting U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Gottlieb to declare youth use of e-cigarettes an “epidemic”.

The increased use of e-cigarettes and vaping devices by youth poses a grave public health concern. These products are unregulated and contain at least 60 different chemical compounds, some of which are known to be toxic, carcinogenic and linked to cardiac disease. E-cigarette vapor is not just water vapor. E-cigarettes have not been proven safe—especially for young people. Exposure to nicotine during adolescence can negatively impact brain development and cognition and can serve as a gateway to conventional tobacco use. E-cigarette use is also associated with an increased risk of heart attack, heart disease and stroke.

Studies show that flavored tobacco products serve as starter products for many smokers, which lead to nicotine addiction and can serve as a gateway to traditional tobacco use. According to data from 2013-2014, 4 out of 5 youth who are current tobacco users started by using a flavored product. Flavors can also alter youth perception of the dangers of tobacco products, including e-cigarettes (which come in over 15,000 flavors), which results in increased use of these products.

E-cigarettes are not an FDA-approved tobacco cessation product. Although a recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that e-cigarettes are more effective in smoking cessation than nicotine-replacement therapy, the results are not generalizable. The study was conducted in the United Kingdom with different e-cigarette products than those offered in the U.S., and the treatment included intensive behavioral support. In addition, it is difficult to assign a standard risk-reduction label to all e-cigarette products because they are not currently regulated, and the array of available e-cigarette products and technologies can vary so much. The long-term health effects of e-cigarette use are still not known, and the study did not address the dangers of nicotine addiction. At the conclusion of the study, 80 percent of those in the e-cigarette treatment group were still using e-cigarettes, compared with 9 percent of those in the nicotine-replacement group still using nicotine replacement. In the U.S., more than half of all e-cigarette users aged 25 and older are also current cigarette smokers.

Respiratory Health Association is committed to taking action to reduce the toll of all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, on our communities, including:

  • Raising the minimum legal sales age of tobacco products, including e-cigarettes and vaping products, from 18 to 21
  • Adding e-cigarettes to existing smoke-free laws
  • Clarifying definitions of tobacco to include e-cigarette and vaping products
  • Licensing tobacco and e-cigarette retailers
  • Restricting the sales of flavored tobacco and vape products
  • Raising the tax on e-cigarettes and vaping products

Statement Supporting Wider Restrictions on Vaping Products and E-Cigarettes

Respiratory Health Association (RHA) applauds the expected FDA action to ban sales of most flavored e-cigarettes in convenience stores and gas stations across the country.

Vaping devices, such as the widely popularized Juul, have become a mainstay in places of education, with 42.2 percent of U.S. high school students having used an e-cigarette. Recent data show e-cigarette use skyrocketed among youth, prompting Commissioner Gottlieb to declare youth use of e-cigarettes an “epidemic”.

The increased use of e-cigarettes and vaping devices by youth poses a grave public health concern. These products are unregulated and contain nicotine, heavy metals, ultrafine particles, and other carcinogens. They have not been proven safe – especially for young people. They are not an FDA-approved tobacco cessation product, and e-cigarette vapor is not just water vapor, despite what some may claim.

Flavored tobacco products appeal to youth. According to data from 2013-2014, 4 out of 5 youth who tried tobacco started by using a flavored product. Flavors can also alter youth perception of the dangers of tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, which results in increased use of these products. Studies show that flavored tobacco products serve as starter products for many smokers, which lead to nicotine addiction and can serve as a gateway to traditional tobacco use.

Restricted access is a proven strategy and logical step for discouraging youth from using these products.  These actions will saves lives and bring us one step closer to a tobacco-free generation.

Respiratory Health Association has submitted public comments and testimony to the federal government regarding the impact of flavored tobacco and vaping products. We remain committed to taking action to reduce youth use of all tobacco products including e-cigarettes.

RHA Statement on Governor Rauner’s Veto of Tobacco 21

On Friday, August 24, 2018, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner vetoed Senate Bill 2332, legislation that would have substantially reduced youth smoking and saved the state hundreds of millions of dollars in future health care costs by raising the tobacco purchase age to 21 from 18.

Respiratory Health Association (RHA) is incredibly disappointed in Governor Rauner’s decision to veto this legislation after it passed the Illinois General Assembly.  The bill is also supported by a majority of Illinois residents. A recent study, conducted by Fako and Associates, showed that two out of three adults in Illinois support Tobacco 21, a figure that is even higher among current and former smokers.

A cornerstone of RHA’s work has been to reduce the toll of tobacco on our communities, particularly among our youth. At this point, 26 communities across the state have adopted local laws to raise the tobacco purchase age. These local laws cover more than 30 percent of the state’s population and will remain in full force and effect.

Tobacco 21 laws are important because 95 percent of adult smokers take up the habit before they turn 21. By raising the purchase age from 18 to 21, the law would have helped keep tobacco out of schools and away from teens.

“Too many kids are being exposed to tobacco products in their teenage years,” said Joel Africk, President and CEO, Respiratory Health Association. “If we can keep kids away from tobacco until they’re 21, they’re far less likely to become addicted and can live healthier lives.”

Tobacco 21 also would have yielded significant health and economic benefits.  The Institute of Medicine estimates that raising the tobacco purchase age to 21 could result in a 12 percent decrease in smoking rates by the time today’s teenagers become adults. RHA estimates that in Illinois alone the law would save $500 million in future healthcare costs and avoid $500 million more in lost productivity associated with smoking and tobacco related illnesses.

“Respiratory Health Association is undeterred.  We will continue to fight to protect kids across Illinois from smoking and tobacco addiction in the next legislative session. Tobacco 21 is the right thing to do,” continued Africk.

To date five states – California, Hawaii, Maine, New Jersey and Oregon – and hundreds of municipalities around the US have raised the tobacco purchase age to 21.

Prior to working on Tobacco 21, RHA advocated strongly for the Smoke-free Illinois Act, which passed in 2007. That legislation was the strongest statewide smoke-free law in the country.

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Respiratory Health Association has been a local public health leader in Chicago since 1906. A policy leader, our organization remains committed to advancing innovative and meaningful tobacco control policies. We have been one of the state’s leading advocates for Tobacco 21 and Other Tobacco Product policies. For more information, visit www.resphealth.org.