Advocacy Day: Worth the Trip to Austin

 

Every other year, our elected officials come together for a 140-day session to pass bills that are aimed at protecting the health and safety of all Texans. During this time, thousands of people from all over the state – and from all different kinds of professions – pay a visit to the Capitol to meet with their elected officials. These meetings often involve conversations that allow our representatives to hear more about constituents’ concerns and the issues that matter to them.

As a member of Texans Standing Tall’s (TST) Youth Leadership Council (YLC), I’ve had the great opportunity to attend TST’s Advocacy Day on more than one occasion. The experience was so inspiring that afterwards, I returned to my hometown of Anthony, motivated to get my state representative to visit my high school. My classmates and I wrote letters to his office and a few weeks later, he came to speak at our school. I was and still am very grateful for that opportunity.

Now, as a YLC alum and TST intern, I’m once again excited to participate in Advocacy Day. On February 19, 2019, coalition members of all ages and from all areas of the state will come together in Austin to receive information and training on important issues related to youth alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use. Attendees will then have the chance to meet with their representatives to talk about youth substance use prevention and advocate for positive change in their local communities.

Attending TST’s Advocacy Day is one of the most important things you can do as a supporter of Texans Standing Tall and as an advocate for safe, drug-free communities in Texas. The morning training sessions prepare you to speak with your representatives about the most pressing alcohol and tobacco issues our communities face; the afternoon visits at the Capitol give you face-to-face time with lawmakers and their staff members. In between the training and the office visits, you have the chance to explore the Capitol, attend committee hearings, and learn more about the law-making process in Texas.

While anyone can visit the Capitol on their own, Advocacy Day sets you up with the proper tools and resources you need for successful visits with your elected officials. I believe the training and group dynamic of TST’s Advocacy Day are unique – I’m so glad to know I don’t have to go it alone.

So, if you haven’t registered for Advocacy Day already, do it today! Don’t miss the chance to join a dedicated group of prevention advocates at the Capitol on Tuesday, February 19, 2019. We look forward to seeing you there!

 

 

 

Alcohol Delivery Apps Bring Booze Via Smartphone

Growing up, many of us delighted in the occasional pizza delivery on a weekend night. Packages from the postman arrived when faraway relatives sent birthday and holiday gifts. The term “app” was an abbreviation for “appetizer.”

But in 2018, cardboard boxes are a front-porch staple, and we expect most of our products to be delivered in a matter of days. Delivery apps cut that time down to hours or minutes, bringing groceries, restaurant food, drivers, and household goods to our front doors in no time. It is no surprise that there’s a fast-growing market for alcohol delivery, too.

It’s also no surprise that delivery apps make it easier for underage drinkers to get alcohol through delivery services than from bars or retail stores. The bottom line is that these apps create greater and easier access to alcohol, which is the exact opposite of what we need to do to reduce and prevent underage drinking.

A recent Austin American-Statesman story reported that “in a handful of sting operations conducted by Texas regulators, people younger than the legal drinking age of 21 were able to obtain alcohol using app-based delivery services at more than twice the rate generally found in similar sting operations conducted in bars and liquor stores.”

Until recently, alcohol delivery has predominantly consisted of high-end wine sales; youth aren’t exactly the target market for this kind of online alcohol purchasing.

Now, mobile apps like Drizly and Postmates promise fast alcohol delivery – from beer to bourbon – to our front doors. With smart phones in the hands of roughly 4 in 5 youth, this type of direct shipment to private residences is just a download away for your junior high, high-school, or underage college student.

In this convenience economy, there are many questions that still need to be answered about this new delivery model: Who should be licensed? How do you prevent access by minors?  Who is held accountable for violations?

Ultimately, it will be up to our lawmakers to establish a regulatory framework that addresses public safety, and Texans Standing Tall will be working to make sure future policies address prevention and limit youth access.

As we continue to follow the issue, we will keep everyone updated on what we learn. So, if you haven’t already, make sure to follow us on social media, subscribe to our newsletter, or reach out to us at any time with questions or for more information. And, if you’re alarmed about how these delivery apps increase youth access and would like to get involved by providing testimony during any hearings on the topic, contact Atalie at ANitibhon@TexansStandingTall.org.

Tobacco 21: What It Is and What’s Happening in Texas

by: Christi Koenig Brisky, Esq.

The Tobacco21 movement has made its way to Texas after a whirlwind policy shift across the United States. In both the House and the Senate, lawmakers have filed bills that would prohibit the sale of cigarettes, e-cigarettes, and other tobacco products to anyone under the age of 21. If passed, the bills would 1) criminalize the possession of tobacco products to anyone under 21, and 2) charge anyone found guilty of selling to underage youth with a Class C Misdemeanor, which could result in a $500 fine. These bills have crossed partisan lines, with Republicans and Democrats co-authoring Tobacco21 bills in the Texas legislature.

Tobacco21 is a public health movement most accurately summarized by its social media hashtag: #raisetheage. Those in favor of raising the legal purchase age of tobacco 21 believe it would reduce the most commonly seen form of underage tobacco purchasing: the social purchase of tobacco for underage users by someone 18 or older. Approximately 86% of students report that they obtain their cigarettes from social sources, with research showing that 15-17 year olds obtain cigarettes through social sources 86% of the time and e-cigarettes through social sources 89% of the time.  The Institute of Medicine estimated that if the minimum legal age were increased to 21, it would reduce smoking initiation among 15-17 year olds by approximately 25%. Anecdotally, Needham, Massachusetts, the first city in the United States to increase the tobacco sales age to 21, saw tobacco use rates among high school students decrease by almost 50%, with frequent tobacco use decreasing by 62%.

The vast majority of states in the country have set the legal smoking age at 18. Four states (Alabama, Alaska, New Jersey, and Utah) have adopted a minimum legal smoking age of 19. Even more states have considered—and failed to pass—statutes increasing the legal smoking age, despite significant popular support across party lines.

Despite some pushback from both the tobacco industry and political operatives, this movement has made incredible legislative strides since 2014. Over the past two years, two states—California and Hawaii— and over two hundred cities and counties across the country have passed ordinances to raise the legal minimum age for sale of all tobacco and nicotine products from 18 to 21. This is not just a state issue; U.S. Senator Brian Schatz and nine co-sponsors introduced legislation to raise the age to 21 nationwide for purchase of any tobacco product, including cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco, and as of 2016, vaping products. Although it ultimately died in Committee, this attempt was an important milestone for the Tobacco21 movement.

Tobacco21 does not just affect 90% of smokers who started smoking by age 20; it also affects the overall public health of our country as a whole. The Institute of Medicine reported that by raising the age, it would reduce premature deaths by almost 223,000 and lung cancer deaths by 50,000. The conservative estimate is that Tobacco21 would also prevent 4.2 million years of life lost to smoking in youth alive today.

Tobacco doesn’t just cost us lives. Both individually and nationwide, smoking has a pretty hefty price tag. Nationwide, smoking costs each taxpaying household about $951 per year.  In Texas alone, it causes financial bleeding to the tune of about $17.1 billion in total annual health care expenditures caused by tobacco-related diseases. Secondhand smoke exposure is associated with an estimated $6.03 billion in annual health care expenditures, nationwide. That’s right—smoking costs you money even if you don’t actually smoke yourself. What’s more, for every one Texan who quits smoking, there is a five-year savings of $7,027 in medical costs and lost productivity.

These are issues that directly affect Texans, and we will continue to follow the Tobacco 21 movement in our state and across the country. In the meantime, we encourage you to register for our Summit on May 1 – 2, 2017 to learn more about this and other tobacco issues in Texas. Visit www.TexansStandingTall.org to register.