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Testimony of DC Tobacco Free Coalition: Fiscal Year 2023 Budget Support

Testimony of DC Tobacco Free Coalition
Delivered by Liz Furgurson, ASH Chief Operating Officer

DC Council Committee of The Whole

Fiscal Year 2023 Budget Support
Support for Funding FY 2023 D.C. Law 24-25. Flavored Tobacco Product Prohibition
Amendment Act of 2021

 April 8, 2022

LF at DC Council Testimony

Chairman Mendelson, and Members of the DC Council:

Thank you for the opportunity to provide testimony.

My name is Liz Furgurson, I’m a Ward 1 District resident and I’m the Chairperson of the DC Tobacco Free Coalition, a coalition of over 50 DC based organizations and individuals working together to educate the community of the effects and the harm of tobacco and second-hand smoke. Our Coalition consists of many national health organizations, like the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society, and Parents Against Vaping and E-cigarettes, who are headquartered here in the District, as well as many local institutions like Howard University, Breathe DC, Community Wellness Alliance, Mary’s Center, and the YMCA of Greater Metropolitan Washington.

I’d like to support the previous and forthcoming testimonies of each of my fellow Coalition members and I’ll try to avoid repeating many of the statistics that you’ll hear today.

First, thank you to the members of the Council for taking an important step in favor of health for District residents and passing the Flavored Tobacco Product Prohibition Amendment Act of 2021.  Now, we’re urging you to ensure its fully funded.

It’s been over 70 years since we found out for sure that smoking causes disease and death, and yet here we are, losing 800 District Residents each year to something that is completely preventable.

The tobacco epidemic is caused not by a virus but by an industry. The tobacco industry includes flavors in their products for two reasons: to attract children, and to make it easier for them to get addicted.

For decades, we have worked to end this epidemic by preventing children from starting smoking, mainly by trying to enforce a minimum age of purchase. It is not working. When the federal government considered raising the minimum age to 21, Altria, makers of Marlboro and part owner of Juul, publicly supported the effort. Why? Because they know it doesn’t matter, and it was a chance to seem responsible while maintaining their ability to addict future generations. Kids are still finding ways to get and get addicted to tobacco products. Eighteen didn’t stop them and 21 isn’t stopping them.

As long as these products are more widely available than milk, kids will get them. But making them less desirable by banning flavors will make a big difference.

In addition to the industry’s efforts to target children, the FDA states that there is overwhelming evidence that menthol, like other flavors, in tobacco products is perpetuating the tobacco epidemic – it encourages initiation and addiction, is used disproportionately by youth and minority groups, especially African Americans and the LGBTI community, and makes it more difficult to quit smoking.

In spite of recent legal developments, the FDA has yet to issue a product standard eliminating menthol flavor, though it has stated that these products exacerbate the troubling disparities in health related to race and socioeconomic status.

The District has the opportunity and the responsibility to protect ALL of its citizens and continue to serve as a leader in our nation’s health.

The DC Tobacco Free Coalition supports the NAACP’s 2016 Resolution to Support State and Local Restrictions on the Sale of Flavored Tobacco Products, and stands with its members, as well as Advisory Neighborhood Commissions, Civic Associations, PTAs and houses of worship to urge the Council to preserve the funding for this law in the FY 2023 Budget.

Thank you.