COLUMBIA, SC – May 2, 2022– As session nears a close, a bill that would take away the right of local elected officials to pass policies that protect South Carolina children and teens from tobacco addiction has the potential to move quickly through the last days of session, as lawmakers receive continued pressure from Big Tobacco. The bill was introduced in 2019 and faced controversy last session after being fast-tracked in the Senate when the Senate Medical Affairs bypassed a public hearing -- preventing constituents and concerned parents from weighing in on the legislation.
The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) and American Heart Association (AH) are warning on the dangerous ramifications of the bill that would leave children more vulnerable to tobacco addiction by removing the freedom of localities’ to act and thus limit future progress in reducing the abnormally high tobacco use, illness and death rate in the state for decades to come.
“Our state lawmakers, like our local councils, are elected to respond to their community’s needs. South Carolina has alarmingly high rates of tobacco-related illness and death due to high adult tobacco use compared to other states across the nation – and most recently higher than average youth tobacco use. With such a public health crisis on our hands, legislators should remember their duty and their promise to respond to their community’s most pressing needs and protect the health of the families they serve, not cower to pressure from Big Tobacco and silence the voices of concerned parents and local communities,” noted Beth Johnson, ACS CAN South Carolina Government Relations Director.
Preemption laws are a decades-long tactic by the tobacco industry to remove the power of localities to pass policies that hurt their bottom line by preemptively removing the power of cities and counties to enact laws that do so. When states block communities from passing their own laws, it can hurt the health and well-being of families, friends and neighbors.
“This is a special interest bill that does absolutely nothing for everyday people with everyday concerns,” shared Yarley Steedly, AHA Government Relations Director. “South Carolinians are not asking for this bill – tobacco companies are.”
The youth tobacco rate remains at its highest level in 20 years, driven by the aggressive use of flavored tobacco products to target kids. South Carolina youth are using tobacco products on average more than their peers in neighboring states and across the country with the latest data showing 1 out or 4 high school students self-reporting e-cigarette use.
“We’re at a pivotal moment in the health of our state and far too much is at stake if state lawmakers take away the freedom for all localities to do so too.”