Officials with the American Lung Association are praising Illinois lawmakers for taking steps to address youth access to e-cigarettes.
Kristina Hamilton, director of advocacy with the American Lung Association of Illinois, says the “Preventing Youth Vaping Act” would give the state Attorney General more enforcement authority over e-cigarette companies.
“The legislation is more focused on the practices of the companies in terms of their … misleading advertising or marketing tactics that are appealing to minors,” Hamilton said.
“We've seen more of a link between those types of practices and the increase in youth use.”
The bill specifically gives the state Attorney General's office and law enforcement agencies both criminal and civil authority to hold violators of the act accountable.
“While we have been successful at decreasing combustible cigarette usage among youth, e-cigarette usage among youth is an epidemic in Illinois and around the nation,” Attorney General Kwame Raoul said in a statement. “This legislation is part of a comprehensive approach to protect youth from e-cigarettes, which can serve as a gateway to other tobacco products.”
The measure, Senate Bill 0512, now awaits action by Gov. J.B. Pritzker. Meanwhile, Hamilton says work continues to convince members of the House and Senate to add e-cigarettes to the Smoke-Free Illinois Act.
“We really feel that it's more of a technical change,” Hamilton said. “If these products were in existence when the Smoke-Free Illinois Act was passed, they would have likely been included. We're really just trying to basically update that law, given the newer emergence of these products.”
The Smoke-Free Illinois Act has prohibited smoking in virtually all public places and workplaces since 2008.
Legislators also approved a bill that would require the state’s Medicaid program to cover individual, group, and phone tobacco cessation counseling.
“Given the high smoking and tobacco use rates in low-income people, about double what the general population is for tobacco use, we're really pleased that the General Assembly made sure that Medicaid could support tobacco users [trying to quit],” Hamilton said.
Those actions came during the same session in which the General Assembly approved a measure that would nearly triple the number of marijuana dispensaries in the state.
Hamilton says the organization is considering its reaction to the legislation.
“The American Lung Association and our partners want the Smoke-Free Illinois Act to remain as strong as possible and not to be threatened by the expansion in cannabis,” Hamilton said. “This is obviously a new area since we've only had recreational marijuana in the state for a little over a year and a half, but we want the Smoke-Free Illinois Act to be very strong.”
If that bill is signed by the governor, operators will have the right to open nearly 200 new cannabis shops across the state.
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