As representatives of leading public health organizations, it is our responsibility to speak up when a bill that purports to protect public health does the exact opposite.
That is the story behind HB2682 in Arizona.
Most concerning is the real purpose of this bill – it would prevent cities and towns across Arizona from protecting our kids, because the bill precludes cities and towns from enacting their own regulations on the sale and marketing of dangerous and addictive tobacco products. This would eliminate a vital layer of protection for our children. The bill would also prevent the statewide smoke-free law from applying to the use of electronic cigarettes in shared indoor public places, allowing the tobacco industry to expose Arizonans once again to dangerous secondhand smoke.
Proponents of HB2682 claim that the bill will advance public health by requiring tobacco retailers to obtain a license. Even on that front, the bill just creates a weak tobacco retail license requirement with soft penalties for violators – well below the level recommended by the state Attorney General.
We cannot allow this bill to pass. Arizona is smarter than this, and we can do better for our communities, our youth and future generations.
Public health organizations, cities and towns in Arizona, and the education community universally oppose HB2682. The only organizations that support this bill are, not surprisingly, those that stand to gain the most – BIG TOBACCO and establishments that sell their deadly addictive products.
This is the industry that spends billions of dollars a year to attract new (underage) clientele. According to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, the tobacco industry spends more than $100 million in Arizona each year (out of over $8 billion nationally) to market its products.
The bottom line is we shouldn’t be letting the tobacco industry create its own rules. If they want to sell an addictive, dangerous product, they should act responsibly and be held accountable to community standards as well as basic state regulations. If the state wants to implement watered down regulations and stop cities from serving the unique needs of their local communities, we must fight back.
With increased tobacco use in recent years, including 1 in 6 youth in Arizona using e-cigarettes, it’s clear Arizona needs stronger tobacco regulation. We must regulate retailers and hold them accountable. We can’t let an industry with a track record of lying create its own rules. We respectfully urge lawmakers to demand better and reject HB2682.
Sonya Engle, American Cancer Society Arizona Board Co-Chair
Katherine Kenny, DNP, RN, ANP-BC, FAANP, FAAN, American Heart Association-Phoenix, Board President
Marie Collart, Vice President, Preventing Tobacco Addiction Foundation Board of Directors
Tim Riester, CEO of Riester
Grant Smedley, Board Chair, American Lung Association in Arizona
Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids