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Photo from the UW Center for Tobacco Research and Intervention Website

In the summer heat and humidity, it’s not always easy to catch a deep breath. However, when one finally gets an opportunity to inhale, there’s a good chance that it is smoke free air.

Nine years ago, on July 5, 2010, Wisconsin implemented its Smoke Free Air law. The law advocated for clean indoor air. Now, health advocates and groups such as the Cancer Action Network, the American Heart Association and the American Lung Association say it is time to take the next step.

This time, the goal is to end tobacco use and nicotine addiction in the United States, but to do so, organizations are starting on a state level.

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services found that the smoking rate among adults decreased by 16 percent and that youth smoking rate is below 5 percent. However, the smoking rate isn’t equated to the number of teens and adults who use e-cigarettes and JUUL pens.

According to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, the amount of young people using e-cigarettes has increased from 2014 to 2018 by 154 percent.

“When inhaled, e-cigarettes produce an aerosol that is filled with cancer-causing chemicals, heavy metals, formaldehyde and nicotine,” stated American Heart Association in the press release.

Research has shown that some liquid e-cigarette pods have as much or more nicotine when compared to a pack of cigarettes. Nicotine is not only dangerous but addictive and the use of it affects brain development.

“We can and must do better for our Wisconsin youth when it comes to protecting them from a dangerous nicotine addiction,” said Nicole Hudzinski, government relations director at the American Heart Association.

A teenager dealing with nicotine addiction will deal with short and long-term effects on their brain, heart and lungs, Hudzinski said. It’s time to follow the state’s motto and step forward with tobacco and e-cigarette prevention policies, she added.

Groups such as the American Heart Association, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network and American Lung Association are combining their efforts to reduce tobacco and nicotine usage in Wisconsin among adults and youth.

As part of their plan, the groups have several key strategies. The strategy includes the petition to expand Wisconsin’s clean indoor air law to include e-cigarettes. They want to raise the sales age of all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes from 18 to 21-years old. Another plan is to enact a strong excise tax on e-cigarettes, like that of Wisconsin’s tax on cigarette and other tobacco products. Finally, they want to increase funding for prevention and control programs such as the Wisconsin Tobacco Quit Line.

Wisconsin’s Tobacco Quit Line saw an increase in calls after the clean indoor air law was passed back in 2010, according to the press release.

“The evidence is clear. When Wisconsin enacted strong legislation on cigarettes, smoking rates went down among adults and youth,” said Sara Sahli, government relations director for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network.

“We need that same swift, comprehensive action on e-cigarettes to protect the health and lives of all Wisconsinites,” Sahli added.

To call the Wisconsin Tobacco Quit Line dial 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669), to receive free help provided by the Medicaid Tobacco Cessation Benefit or talk to your doctor.

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