Closing Tobacco Tax Loopholes to Help Prevent More Youth from Taking to Tobacco

Sen. Durbin’s Bill to Close Tobacco Tax Loopholes Will Improve Health and Increase Federal Revenues

Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids

Sep. 21 2017

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids strongly supports the legislation introduced this week by U.S. Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL) to close loopholes and equalize tax rates on all tobacco products. This bill will reduce tobacco use, especially among youth, and increase federal revenues. Since 2009, unequal tax rates and tax loopholes have kept some tobacco products taxed at lower rates than cigarettes, making them more affordable for youth and creating incentives for tax avoidance.

The Tobacco Tax Equity Act proposes to tax all tobacco products – including pipe tobacco, cigars, smokeless tobacco and tobacco products not currently taxed under the federal tax code – at similar rates as cigarettes. We applaud Sen. Durbin for taking action to help the government recover lost tax revenue while improving health and saving lives. Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Jack Reed (D-RI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Edward Markey (D-MA) and Al Franken (D-MN) joined Sen. Durbin in introducing the legislation.

The evidence is clear that raising tobacco prices through higher taxes is one of the most effective ways to reduce tobacco use, especially among children. Creating a more equitable tax system, without loopholes, will prevent young people from starting to use tobacco products and help current users quit.

The current system for taxing tobacco products is neither simple nor equitable. Large cigars, smokeless tobacco and pipe tobacco are taxed at lower rates than cigarettes. These disparities have created opportunities for tobacco manufacturers to change the way they make or label their products so that they qualify for lower tax rates. In particular, roll-your-own tobacco has falsely been labeled as pipe tobacco, and some cigarette and small cigar manufacturers have modified their products so that they can be considered large cigars.

These loopholes allow these products to remain on the market at lower prices, discouraging tobacco users from quitting and encouraging youth to start using them. And the inequities in the tobacco tax system are costly: the Government Accountability Office estimates that, from April 2009 to February 2014, federal revenue losses due to these loopholes range from $2.6 billion to $3.7 billion.

Tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable death in the United States, killing more than 480,000 Americans each year and costing $170 billion in health care expenditures annually. Sen. Durbin and his colleagues have taken an important step to reduce tobacco’s terrible toll on our nation.

Thank you Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids for all your work to keep youth healthy!

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National Survey Shows Soaring Marijuana Use Among All Americans 12 and Older; Heavy Use Also on the Rise by SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana)

FIRST LOOK: National Survey Shows Soaring Marijuana Use Among All Americans 12 and Older; 
Heavy Use Also on the Rise
National survey highlights jump in pot use among young adults in era of marijuana legalization; 
Almost twice as many adolescents regularly use marijuana than cigarettes 
(Alexandria, Va., September 7, 2017) – Every day, 7,000 new people try marijuana for the first time — a figure far greater than trends seen in the early 2000s, according to the most comprehensive survey on drug use released today by the federal government.
The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) also found the number of daily or near-daily users of marijuana in 2016 doubled compared to the number of heavy users about a decade ago. Use rose significantly among age groups 12 and up, 18 and up, and 26 and up. Almost twice as many 12-17-year-olds are using pot as compared to cigarettes on a past-month basis. And among those 18 and over, there has been a significant jump in the percent of marijuana users who are unemployed as compared to 2015.
“Big Marijuana – just like Big Tobacco years ago – continues to glorify marijuana as a cure-all that can do little or no harm,” said Kevin A. Sabet, Ph.D., President of Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM) and a former White House drug policy adviser. “If it wasn’t for marijuana, overall drug use in this country would be going down. Rising mental health issues, drugged driving crashes, and an increasingly stoned workforce won’t help us get ahead. We should put the brakes on marijuana legalization and start a national science-based marijuana awareness campaign similar to successful anti-tobacco campaigns.”
White House Office of National Drug Policy Acting Director Baum announced that NSDUH state-level data, which shows the gulf between use in states with legalized pot versus those with no legalization laws, is expected later this year and not included in this report. The last state estimate report showed Colorado is the #1 state in the country for youth marijuana use.
According to a recent report by SAM, the three states with the most established retail marijuana markets – Colorado, Oregon, and Washington – have seen negative public health and safety consequences, including increased marijuana use and car crashes related to marijuana.
“We shouldn’t incarcerate people for marijuana use, but legalization is promoting a commercial industry driving heavy pot use among young people. We need a smarter approach that focuses on prevention, awareness, and recovery,” said Sabet.
NSDUH also reported a non-significant reduction in marijuana use among 12-17 year-olds versus 2015 and a non-significant increase among 18-25 year-olds versus 2015. However, use is up significantly among young adults 18-25 compared with earlier years. Research has found that marijuana affects the developing brain negatively, and that most people’s brains develop well into their 20s.
SAM will be updating info about NSDUH as we receive the full report.
For more information, please visit
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Tobacco and Youth

Youth use of tobacco in any form is unsafe.

If smoking continues at the current rate among youth in this country, 5.6 million of today’s Americans younger than 18 will die early from a smoking-related illness. That’s about 1 of every 13 Americans aged 17 years or younger alive today.1

Preventing tobacco use among youth is critical to ending the tobacco epidemic in the United States.

  • Tobacco use is started and established primarily during adolescence.2,3
    • Nearly 9 out of 10 cigarette smokers first tried smoking by age 18, and 99% first tried smoking by age 26.1,3
    • Each day in the United States, more than 3,200 youth aged 18 years or younger smoke their first cigarette, and an additional 2,100 youth and young adults become daily cigarette smokers.3
  • Flavorings in tobacco products can make them more appealing to youth.4
    • In 2014, 73% of high school students and 56% of middle school students who used tobacco products in the past 30 days reported using a flavored tobacco product during that time.
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Learn About SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana)

Why do you oppose marijuana legalization when alcohol – a more dangerous drug – is already legal?

“Alcohol is not legal because it is safe; it is legal because most of Western civilization has used the drug for thousands of years. By contrast, marijuana has always been used by a small minority of the population. Drug laws keep rates of use down, thereby lowering the negative consequences for communities. Alcohol and tobacco – two legally available drugs – provide a good example, since Americans use them far more frequently than illegal drugs.

Alcohol is in and out of your system within 24 hours; marijuana’s effects last much longer. Research has found that marijuana abusers self-report far worse outcomes than alcohol users, including more problems at home, work, or school and more mental health problems.

Evidence also finds that people often use alcohol, marijuana, and tobacco together. Rarely do users substitute alcohol for marijuana. In fact, rates of alcohol sales continue to rise in states that have legalized marijuana.”


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Oregon Becomes Fifth State to Raise Tobacco Age to 21

Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids

Aug. 9 2017


WASHINGTON, D.C. – Oregon today became the fifth state to prohibit the sale of tobacco products to anyone under 21 as Gov. Kate Brown signed the measure into law. The legislature approved the bill last month. In taking this bold step, Oregon will prevent young people from starting to use tobacco, save lives and help make the next generation tobacco-free. We applaud Gov. Brown and the lawmakers who supported this legislation for their strong leadership in fighting tobacco use, the No. 1 cause of preventable death in the United States.

Oregon’s action provides another major boost for the growing, nationwide movement to increase the tobacco age to 21. Tobacco 21 laws have also been enacted by California, Hawaii, New Jersey, Maine and at least 255 cities and counties (PDF), including New York City, Chicago, Boston, Cleveland, St. Louis and both Kansas Cities. Massachusetts lawmakers should quickly approve similar legislation pending there.

Increasing the tobacco age to 21 will reduce tobacco use among youth and young adults – age groups when nearly all tobacco use begins and that are heavily targeted by the tobacco industry. We know that about 95 percent of adult smokers began smoking before they turned 21. Increasing the tobacco age will help counter the industry’s efforts to target young people at a critical time when many move from experimenting with tobacco to regular smoking. This legislation will also help keep tobacco out of high schools, where younger teens often obtain tobacco products from older students.

A 2015 report by the prestigious Institute of Medicine (now called the National Academy of Medicine) concluded that increasing the tobacco age to 21 will significantly reduce the number of adolescents and young adults who start smoking, with immediate and long-term benefits for the nation’s health.

Tobacco use kills over 480,000 Americans and costs the nation about $170 billion in health care bills each year. In Oregon, tobacco kills over 5,500 people and costs over $1.5 billion in health care expenses each year. Without additional action to reduce tobacco use, 68,000 kids alive today in Oregon will die prematurely from smoking. Increasing the tobacco age to 21 is a critical step in reducing and eventually eliminating tobacco’s terrible toll.

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Rock Solid Flash Mob Video 2017

It’s Another Day of Fun with Rock Solid Youth at the Fair! This year’s Flash Mob, Another Day of Sun from La La Land was a crowd-pleaser. We thank Francie Hansen, Coordinator of the Trashion Fashion Show, as she welcomes our youth leaders to share healthy messages during this event. The crowd is always amazing! We also appreciate everyone’s support of our youth, as they seek to find fun and creative ways to share their healthy messages for the San Juan Island Prevention Coalition. DANCE 4 HEALTH! We thank Madrona Jameson and Zach Fincher for leading the team, too!

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DANCE 4 HEALTH Flash Mob at the Fair 2017-Join us!

Watch the video, learn the moves. Don’t want to get up and dance, stand in the crowd and wave your hands to the beat! Thanks for supporting our youth messages for healthy choices! Dance 4 Health!

Saturday, August 19th at 5pm during the Trashion Fashion Show on the Main Stage at the San Juan County Fair!

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The science of THC potency of pot.


July 21, 2017

It’s a challenge that has tested parents for generations:
How do you warn your teens about risky behaviors that you may have engaged in when you were their age? When it comes to marijuana, the key may be the science of THC potency.

Smart Colorado has launched an educational campaign focused on Facebook, a social media site that’s likely to be used by both parents and their teen children.

“The scientific research is clear that marijuana can permanently harm teens’ developing brains,” said Henny Lasley, executive director of Smart Colorado.  “These skyrocketing THC potencies raise the stakes considerably for adolescents. Our educational effort is designed to give parents – including those who have used marijuana – the tools to start a conversation online or in person with their teen children about the very real dangers of today’s ultra-potent marijuana.”
Levels of THC, the chemical in marijuana responsible for most of its psychoactive effects, have been growing exponentially as marijuana has been commercialized in Colorado. THC potency averaged just 3.7% THC in the early 1990s.  Parents may recall the nicknames for the low-potency pot of earlier eras: ditch weed, schwag, brick weed. Average potency of flowers/buds in Colorado is now 17.1 percent, according to state research. But marijuana industry websites say strains can reach 30 percent. Concentrates average 62.1 percent but potency rates of up to 95 percent have been recorded, the state reports. Dabbing – heating nearly pure THC concentrates known as wax or shatter with a blowtorch and inhaling the vapor through a dab rig – is increasingly popular. It’s been called the “crack” of pot and “for the first time it seems possible to ‘overdose’ on cannabis,” says marijuana industry website Leafly.The Smart Colorado campaign features a compelling new video that describes the risks ultra-potent marijuana poses to teens.  It specifically highlights dabbing and features insightful interviews with a high school student, his mother, a prosecutor and an adolescent addiction specialist, among others. Watch the video below or view it on Youtube.

Smart Colorado notes that Gov. John Hickenlooper this year told a reporter for “When you’re a teenager, your brain is growing very, very rapidly. The high-THC marijuana we have is so intense in the way it affects your synapses and those parts of your brain that literally every brain scientist I’ve talked to feels there’s a very high probability that, even if you only smoke once a week, this high-THC marijuana, if you’re a teenager, it will take a sliver of your long-term memory forever. That doesn’t come back in two weeks or three weeks. Your brain is growing so fast that the synapses don’t connect so you can’t retrieve information that you remembered.”

We encourage you to check out this campaign and give us your feedback.  Does it provide new information that you find useful in talking to teens, parents or others about today’s highly potent marijuana?


Support Smart Colorado

If you believe in Smart Colorado’s mission, please donate today to support our work. Thousands also have liked Smart Colorado on Facebook to get the latest news about our efforts to protect youth.  You can also engage with us on Twitter.

About Smart Colorado

Smart Colorado is a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to protecting the health, safety, and well-being of Colorado youth as marijuana becomes increasingly available and commercialized. Smart Colorado is a project of the Colorado Nonprofit Development Center. To learn more about Smart Colorado, please visit:

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Coalitions in Action: Youth Create a “Keep Your Focus” Marijuana Awareness Campaign

In south central Connecticut, the Durham Middlefield Local Wellness Coalition created the “Keep Your Focus” marijuana awareness campaign, pioneered and steered by youth in conjunction with a marketing company partnership.

“This project was very much youth-driven. They felt there was a need to change social norms in their high school around marijuana use,” said Haley Shoop, Prevention Coordinator at Durham Middlefield Local Wellness Coalition. “Their voice was crucial in planning every detail of this campaign.”

Durham and Middlefield are two Connecticut towns with a combined area of 37 square miles and combined population of 11,797. While the area has great school systems, the large farm and wooded areas give youth opportunities to use substances in hidden locations and some parents are unaware that their children are using at all. With the legalization of marijuana in Connecticut looming, the youth decided that there needed to be an important and educational message campaign about the harmful effects of marijuana.

The students wanted a message with a direct quote from them, feeling that their friends and peers would be more receptive. They felt strongly that many of their peers did not think marijuana was harmful and fewer thought driving while under the influence of marijuana was dangerous. Many students stated that they were bombarded with social media advertisements favoring the consumption of marijuana-related products and that the legalization for recreational use of marijuana has given the impression that it is “safe” to use.

“The students felt strongly that they were not being well-informed on all of the negative or harmful effects of marijuana, specifically drugged driving,” said Shoop. “Miranda Creative, a marketing firm, listened to their concerns and helped develop graphics to make their message stand out among their peers and throughout the community.”

The initial launch of the campaign began with two large vinyl banners in high traffic areas at the local high school. During National Prevention Week (May 14 – 20), both middle and high school students promoted the campaign by putting magnets on all the lockers with the “Keep Your Focus” tagline and Instagram account handle. They also participated in lunch activities, read drug facts for announcements, hosted a school assembly, and put window clings in the high school classrooms.

The youth used social media as a platform to promote the campaign, above the influence messages and other positive images to combat ads favorable to substance use and other risky behaviors. The students plan to create a Snapchat filter with the tagline “Keep Your Focus” to promote at the high school graduation.

In May, the youth presented their campaign to members of the coalition, parents, teachers, key community leaders, and local media. The campaign also gained recognition from neighboring communities, one of which requested to use the driving-themed message to display on a billboard in their community.

Following the campaign, almost three-fourths of the students (74 percent) agreed that they are more aware of the risks around driving while using marijuana and 72 percent of the students are more aware of the impact marijuana use has on motor skills and reaction times.

“The students are very proud of what they have accomplished and feel they have a voice among their peers. They do not want to see their friends make poor or uninformed decisions,” said Shoop. “This campaign has brought new momentum to the group and allowed them to feel like they are starting to make a difference.”



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New WA. State Distracted Driving Laws go into effect July 23, 2017

Our SJIPC Chair and San Juan County Probation Officer, Brad Fincher, shares “Essentially the new infractions for distracted driving become more broadly defined to make it easier for law enforcement to write tickets and keep people safer out on our roads. The old laws were repealed to pave the way for new.”

Attached are the AOC law table updates related to the 2017 Legislative Session.

Of interest may be the new traffic infractions created in SSB 5289 DISTRACTED DRIVING–ELECTRONIC DEVICES–DANGEROUSLY DISTRACTED DRIVING.  Until the State Code Reviser had codified the new laws, the session law number will be used in the law table:


Effective Date

Session Law Number



Total Penalty Amount

July 23, 2017


Per Electronic Device While Driving

Traffic Infraction


July 23, 2017


Per Electronic Dev Drive 2nd/Subseq

Traffic Infraction


July 23, 2017


Drive Dangerously Distracted

Traffic Infraction



Once the above laws are codified, this message will be updated with the RCW number information.


The RCWs below were repealed in SSB 5289 and will be end dated July 22, 2017:
46.61.667(1)(a) Cell Phone Use While Driving Repealed
46.61.667(1)(b) CMV Cell Phone Use While Driving Repealed
46.61.668(1)(a) Text Messaging While Driving Repealed
46.61.668(1)(b) CMV Text Messaging While Driving Repealed



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