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Watch Me: Laura Hale, American Heart Association

As part of the 25th Anniversary of Top 100 Women, The Daily Record is supporting the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women campaign.

Laura HaleLaura Hale
Government Relations Director
American Heart Association

Growing up in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, I saw firsthand the devastating effects generations of tobacco use have on communities.  Now, a new group of products, e-cigarettes, threatens to reverse decades of gains in the fight against tobacco addiction, especially among youth. According to the CDC, 1.5 million more youth used e-cigarettes in 2018 than one year earlier. For too long, big tobacco and other predatory industries have preyed upon youth, low-income communities and communities of color. I am leading the charge in Maryland against this epidemic, advocating for commonsense policies to help make this the generation of never smokers.

I am motivated to make the world a healthier place and to make the healthy choice the easy choice. I am shaping policy solutions to create a healthier world for the next generation. Long term solutions are only possible when we put systems in place for them to be people’s default option. Through my leadership at the American Heart Association, I have advocated for meaningful policy change. My efforts have seen successful passage and implementation of Tobacco 21, a policy that raised the minimum legal sales age of all tobacco products in Maryland to 21, keeping e-cigarettes and other tobacco products out of our schools.

Go Red for WomenFor 2020, one of my top objectives is to end the sale of all flavored tobacco products in Maryland. Flavored tobacco products are targeted at youth and make it easier to start smoking. By ending the sale of these products, we will be fighting back against a predatory industry that has targeted our kids, communities of color, and low-income communities. The tobacco industry wants new smokers and these fruity flavors make the addictive nicotine go down easier. Additionally, I am advocating to increase the state tobacco tax by $2 a pack for cigarettes, create a parity tax across all tobacco products, including an excise tax on e-cigarettes for the first time in Maryland. The legislation will increase funding for tobacco control and education in Maryland as well as dedicated funding for Head Start and Early Head Start to help all Marylanders start on the right foot.

Policy change at the state level is an essential tool for public health. States are both more nimble and closer to the people than the federal government; there’s a reason they’ve been called “laboratories of democracy.” States have the drive and opportunity to be leaders on health and create innovative solutions to address the ongoing public health crisis of tobacco addiction. I am driven to advocate for whole health policy change, and I will continue to address the tobacco use epidemic in our country.

Women Who Lead This article is featured in The Daily Record’s Women Who Lead: A Woman’s Guide To Business. The mission of the Women Who Lead (formerly Path to Excellence) magazine is to give our readers the opportunity to meet successful women of all ages, backgrounds and beliefs and learn how they define success. Read more from Women Who Lead.

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