ANCHORAGE, ALASKA — Anchorage’s new age of sale for all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, rises to 21 on the first day of school, Tuesday, August 20. To celebrate, community advocates, public health leaders, and Anchorage Assembly members will host a press conference to discuss this new Tobacco 21 ordinance and the youth e-cigarette epidemic. The press conference will be held Tuesday, August 20 at 11:00 a.m. at the offices of the American Lung Association in Alaska, 500 West International Airport Road, Suite A. The law goes into effect on Tuesday to coincide with the first day of school in the Anchorage School District.
The Anchorage Assembly voted unanimously to raise the city’s tobacco sales age late last month. The ordinance was sponsored by Assembly Members Suzanne LaFrance, Austin Quinn-Davidson, and John Weddleton after being originally proposed by former Assembly Member Dick Traini.
This public health effort is important to help address the alarming rates of youth e-cigarette use, which have skyrocketed nationwide by nearly 80% among high schoolers in the past year. Here in Anchorage, high schoolers use e-cigarettes at twice the rate of cigarette use.
The U.S. Surgeon General has declared youth e-cigarette use an epidemic. The Surgeon General’s report reveals substantial evidence that e-cigarette use is strongly associated with the use of other tobacco products among youth and young adults, particularly combustible tobacco products.
Kids are especially vulnerable to the impacts of tobacco use, including tobacco addiction, dangers to developing lungs by inhaling the chemical cocktail found in e-cigarettes, and negative brain development impacts of nicotine.
“Despite all the progress we’ve made at reducing smoking rates, e-cigarettes are addicting a new generation of youth.” said Marge Stoneking, American Lung Association in Alaska executive director. “Ninety-five percent of all adults who smoke start before age 21. If we can prevent kids from picking up tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, during their vulnerable teen years, we know that most of them won’t start later in life.”
The tobacco industry has long targeted Alaska’s youth, hoping to replace the current smokers who are dying from their products. In fact, Big Tobacco spends roughly $18 million each year in Alaska to market their deadly products, while smoking costs the state $839 million in annual health care costs and lost productivity due to premature death.
“Raising the sales age for tobacco products to 21 is one more tool to help save lives and stop the economic damages of tobacco in our community,” said Emily Nenon, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network Alaska government relations director. “Comprehensive tobacco prevention also includes increasing price, smoke-free indoor workplace laws, and community-based education programs,” Nenon added. “Without further actions like raising the tobacco sales age, 14,000 kids in Alaska under age 18 will eventually die prematurely from smoking.”
Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death, taking the lives of nearly 700 Alaskans annually. Additionally, roughly one-third of all cancer deaths in Alaska are caused by smoking. To date, 18 states, including the entire West Coast minus Alaska, have passed Tobacco 21 legislation and more than 480 municipalities nationwide have taken this action to reduce tobacco use.
About Breathe Free Anchorage Coalition
Formerly the Smokefree Anchorage Coalition, Breathe Free Anchorage was created in 1999 by community members and organizations including American Cancer Society and American Lung Association to monitor and promote clean indoor air in the Municipality of Anchorage. The mission of Breathe Free Anchorage coalition now is to improve community health by eliminating exposure to secondhand smoke and aerosols and reducing nicotine and substance abuse addiction among youth and adults. Our goals are to reduce exposure to secondhand smoke and aerosols; to reduce nicotine addiction through the utilization of evidence-based practices, and to prevent youth initiation of e-cigarettes, tobacco and marijuana products.
About American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network
The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) is making cancer a top priority for public officials and candidates at the federal, state and local levels. ACS CAN empowers advocates across the country to make their voices heard and influence evidence-based public policy change as well as legislative and regulatory solutions that will reduce the cancer burden. As the American Cancer Society’s nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy affiliate, ACS CAN is critical to the fight for a world without cancer. For more information, visit www.fightcancer.org
About American Lung Association
The American Lung Association is the leading organization working to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease, through research, education and advocacy. The work of the American Lung Association is focused on four strategic imperatives: to defeat lung cancer; to improve the air we breathe; to reduce the burden of lung disease on individuals and their families; and to eliminate tobacco use and tobacco-related diseases. For more information about the American Lung Association, a holder of the coveted 4-star rating from Charity Navigator and a Gold-Level GuideStar Member, or to support the work it does, call 1-800-LUNGUSA (1-800-586-4872) or visit: Lung.org.