Lobby Day: Democracy In Action

To say that my past week was busy would be an understatement.  I ventured to a new experience this past week which was full of enrichment, discovery, and democracy.  My new venture took me to Lobby Day at the Indiana State House on Tuesday.  It was my first Lobby Day and boy was it AWESOME!  I am no stranger to the Indiana State House as I have rallied and protested both indoors and on the lawn before, yet new to being a lobbyist.

I was there with the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network .  They did a wonderful job bringing together speakers who were moving (I totally shed some tears), inviting our legislators to lunch, and bringing together a large group of people all there for one thing; to bring cancer to it’s knees through lobbying.  It was my heart in action on Tuesday and it was my honor to be there.

There were two bills that we were lobbying for.  The first one was House Bill 1380 (Indiana).  It was Authored by Rep. Charlie Brown and Co-Authored by Rep. Cindy Kirchhofer and Rep. Ronald Bacon.  The bill is to raise the age from 18 years of age to 21 years of age for prohibitions and crimes concerning the sale, purchase, and possession of cigarettes and other tobacco products.

Let me share some Indiana statistics with you:

  • 4,100 smoking-caused cancer deaths each year
  • Indiana’s adult smoking rate is 21% and higher than the national average
  • Nearly 31% of all cancer deaths in Indiana are attributable to smoking
  • 11,100 smoking-related deaths each year in Indiana
  • 95% of adult smokers started when they were kids
  • Indiana ranks 38th among all states for overall health
  • Life expectancy for people who smoke is about 10 years shorter than for nonsmokers

The two statistics that really got me on this bill in particular are; 1 out of 3 cancer deaths could be prevented and that 95% of adult smokers started when they were kids.  I am a former smoker and I can tell you this was true for me.  I started smoking before the age of 18 because I had access to it.  It was easy to find a high school student who was 18 yrs old that wanted to make a few extra bucks to go buy a pack for me.  Yet most minors don’t hang out with 21 year olds.  I would venture to say that would be the same for the youth of today.  Our youth deserve better.

The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network supports a comprehensive approach to addressing tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke in Indiana.  The policy priorities are evidence-based and have broad public support.

  • Increase the cigarette excise tax by $1.50 per pack.Increasing the cigarette tax is one of the most effective ways to reduce tobacco use among young adults and to reduce tobacco use initiation among youth.  Indiana’s adult smoking rate of 21% is among the highest in the nation and 35 states along with Washington, D.C. have higher taxes.
  • Increase the tobacco sales age to 21.Increase the minimum sale age for tobacco products to 21 is an emerging strategy to reduce smoking among kids and save lives.  It is a great complement to raising the cigarette tax.

Our youth deserve for us to make a change.  We have not raised the tax on cigarettes in over a decade here in the Hoosier State.  We need to advert deaths in the state and this bill helps do just that.

The next bill was Senate Bill 209 (Indiana).  The bill was authored by Senator, Liz Brown and Co-Authored by Senator, Mark Stoops.  This bill is to prohibit an individual less than 18 years of age from using a tanning device in a tanning facility.  It would require tanning facilities to check a specified government issued photo identification to confirm an individual is at least 18 years of age before the individual uses a tanning device.

In today’s world a parent can give consent for their teen to use a tanning device.  Heck I did when I was a teen and my parents signed my consent.  I also slathered on baby oil and sat in my backyard, too.  Perhaps those are just a couple of reasons why melanoma is on the rise.  I was pretty shocked by the statistics which I will share with you below.

Indoor Tanning & Skin Cancer  

  • Tanning before the age of 35 increases the risk of melanoma by 59%.
  • Older teens are more likely to use tanning devices than younger teens.
  • Tanning devices are classified as carcinogenic to humans – the SAME RISK LEVEL as cigarettes.
  • 184,000 Hoosier teens aged 16 &17 are unprotected from the dangers of a tanning device.
  • Melanoma cases have increased by 68% in Indiana since 2008.

Let those figures sink in for just a moment.  Marinate that around.  If you wouldn’t hand your 16 year old a pack of cigarettes to smoke, why would you sign off on them to use a tanning bed?  A number of people have used a tanning bed before family vacations, prom season, graduations, family photos, just to name a few.  Did you also light up a cigarette, too?  Carcinogenic to humans – the SAME RISK LEVEL as cigarettes.  I wanted you to read that again.

We have come a long ways from the days of slathering ourselves in baby oil and our legislation needs to change with us.  I support tan free teens in the State of Indiana!  We had purple sashes Tuesday that read, “I Support Tan Free Teens.”  It was a visual statement piece.  I thought the sash and statement were wonderful especially with prom quickly approaching.  I was thankful that someone asked about spray tans and if they were safe.  The motto was, “it’s okay to spray.”

People lace up their sneakers, throw on their suits and lobby for change in the Hoosier State and I am just lucky I got to be one of them.  I was a voice and spoke with my Senator and House Representative to let them know how passionate I am as one of their voting constituents.  What I don’t do very well is sit on the sidelines.  They’ll likely be getting some letters, emails, and phone calls from me in 2018!

May we #raiseitforhealth and see #tanfreeteens in Indiana!  Raise those glasses of yours to advocacy, democracy, to better health!  Be the change you wish to see!  My glass is water this evening as this Lenten season I gave up wine!

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