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home : news : state news free January 21, 2020

10/30/2019 11:23:00 AM
Health issues claim lion's share of fall veto session
Cullerton bill to ban flavored nicotine products has highest profile support of five others

SPRINGFIELD —  Legislation banning retailers from selling flavored nicotine products in Illinois will likely come before lawmakers in mid-November, its sponsor said Tuesday after a preliminary hearing.

Senate President John Cullerton's "Flavored Tobacco Ban Act" bill is one of six pending in the General Assembly that would ban flavored products including cigarettes and electronic vaping pods. The Chicago Democrat's bill, however, has the highest-profile backing.

His measure would place a wholesale moratorium on the sale of any product made from or containing tobacco with a flavor added, and is targeted at restricting minors' access to such goods, according to a news release.

One of the stakeholders who testified before state senators about Cullerton's bill was Ruby Johnson, an activist with Parents Against Vaping E-Cigarettes. The oldest of her seven children was hospitalized with a lung-related illness resulting from vaping.

She said she favors curbing access to flavored tobacco products because "our kids' health and safety isn't a fight we can afford to walk away from."

"These products were allowed to flood the market without anyone knowing how they would cause damage, and now we're trying to clean up a mess. We have a generation of teens addicted to nicotine, people continuing to get sick, and according to the (Centers for Disease Control) no definitive answers as to the culprit responsible for these cases," Johnson said.

"With youth tobacco rates at an all-time low, kids who would have never picked up a traditional cigarette instead started using flavored e-cigarettes  proprietary flavors that are cocktails of known toxins in devices that are easily tampered with and adulterated," she added..

In Illinois, more than 150 people have been sickened with lung injuries resulting from the inhalation of chemicals from vaping, according to the state's Department of Public Health. Two Illinoisans have died.

Brian Fojtik, a consultant with the National Association of Tobacco Outlets, told the panel of lawmakers "by just banning everything, you create more problems than you solve."

He pointed to the state's Tobacco 21 law  which passed in April and restricts the sale of tobacco products to those older than 21  and said legislators should see what effect it has on vaping by youths before passing a new product ban.

Fojtik also said if lawmakers' concerns relate to the number of vaping-related lung illnesses in the state, "then why include other tobacco products that will result in a myriad of other unintended consequences and create a host of other problems?

"This legislation impacts many products," he said. "The products are all different. The consumers who use them are different."

Cullerton said he was using the testimony "to decide what to do." This initiative is his latest anti-tobacco measure. Previously, he successfully pushed for the Tobacco 21 law, a cigarette tax increase, a new tax on e-cigarettes and the Smoke Free Illinois Act.

"It's a big bill. There's no state in the nation that has passed it, but there are states that have gone after the vaping industry," the Senate president said.

When asked if there was a potential he might remove language banning flavored tobacco products from the measure, Cullerton said, "I'd consider it. ... I'd like to pass the bill. But if I don't have the votes, especially in the House I can't - I'd rather pass something."

Bill to ban vaping in

public places

passes Senate

SPRINGFIELD  — A bill looping electronic cigarettes into the Smoke Free Illinois Act passed the Senate on Tuesday.

Sponsored by Indian Creek Democratic Sen. Terry Link, the measure includes vapes, e-cigars, e-hookahs and other such devices in the existing ban on smoking inside and within 15 feet of the entrance to a building.

"It's only fair that we treat these products the same way we treat cigarettes," Link said in a news release. "It's still unclear what the health effects of these devices are and people shouldn't be forced to be exposed to them in public places if they don't want to."

According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, more than 150 people have been sickened with lung injuries resulting from the first-hand inhalation of chemicals from vaping. Two Illinois residents have died.

The legislation, Senate Bill 1864, passed by a vote of 41-11. It received bipartisan support.

Democratic Rep. Ann Williams, from Chicago, is the House sponsor. It is unclear when it will receive a committee hearing or receive consideration by the full chamber.

Vicki Vasconcellos, president of the Smoke Free Alternatives Coalition of Illinois, said last week at a news event the findings in the current law apply only to smoking traditional cigarettes  not vaping.

"The Smoke Free Act has nothing to do with vaping, and it isn't that we do not believe it's rude to vape indoors, because I think most of us would agree that it is, but we would need finding," she said.

Vasconcellos questioned why vaping, which she said presents a lesser health risk than smoking traditional cigarettes, would be put in a bill "that's all about the dangers of smoking."

"It just doesn't make any sense," she said.

Out-of-pocket costs for insulin would be capped at $100 for 30-day supply

SPRINGFIELD —  Many Illinoisans who suffer from Type 1 diabetes would see a significant reduction in their out-of-pocket costs for prescription insulin under a bill that cleared the state Senate on Tuesday.

An amendment to Senate Bill 667, sponsored by Sen. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill, would cap the price for a 30-day supply of insulin at $100 for people covered under certain kinds of insurance policies. The bill also directs the attorney general to investigate why insulin prices have been rising sharply in recent years.

"Illinois families deserve to have the peace of mind that comes with knowing their loved ones do not have to choose between putting food on the table and buying their prescription medication," Manar said in a statement after the Senate vote. "The Senate just took a step toward making that a reality."

On the Senate floor, Manar spoke of one constituent he represents who pays more than $500 a month for insulin.

The bill would apply only to insurance plans that are regulated by the state. Those generally include plans offered by small employers, as well as public plans like the state employee health program. It would not apply to plans offered by large employers that are governed by the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act, or ERISA, which account for the vast majority of insurance policies in Illinois.

The bill also would not limit how much drug companies can charge for insulin. Rather, it would force insurance companies that would be covered by the new law to pick up a larger share of the cost.

The pharmaceutical industry has argued that all insulin manufacturers in the United States also offer cost-sharing assistance, known as copay cards or coupons, that can greatly reduce out-of-pocket costs for many patients. Some of those are offered in partnership with the American Diabetes Association.

Sen. Dave Syverson, R-Rockford, said he felt frustrated that more isn't being done to promote those programs.

"For small employers, the cost of health care is what's driving so many of them to either drop costs or pass costs on," he argued. "And right now, in this population, you have a small number of people that have high-deductible plans, and there are programs available through the Diabetes Association that'll pay those copays for them. And what we're going to do with this legislation is we're going to take the drug companies out of the equation, and instead we're going to make the insurance companies now pick up all the costs over $100."

Manar, however, said those discount programs don't go far enough to address the issue.

"The problem that families are facing every day in the state is not because of a lack of pamphlets on how to access a program to assist them in paying for insulin," he said.

The bill passed by a vote of 48-7. It now moves to the House.

House to begin process of removing Arroyo

SPRINGFIELD  — The Illinois House launched a formal process Tuesday that could lead to the ouster of embattled Rep. Luis Arroyo, whose federal bribery charge has led to bipartisan calls for sweeping ethics reform in the Statehouse.

Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan announced that he had authorized a six-member investigative committee, made up of equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans, to look into the allegations against Arroyo. That committee is scheduled to have its first meeting Friday, most likely in Chicago, according to a Madigan spokesman.

Under House rules, if that committee recommends charges against Arroyo, then a second, 12-member disciplinary committee will be formed to determine if disciplinary action is warranted. That could involve censure, reprimand or expulsion from office.

It takes a three-fifths majority, or 71 votes in the House, to find a member "at fault" on a misconduct charge, according to the rules, and a two-thirds majority, or 79 votes, to expel a member.

Arroyo, D-Chicago, an assistant majority leader in the House, was charged in federal court Monday with one count of bribery for allegedly offering to pay a state senator $2,500 per month for six months to a year in exchange for the senator's support of a bill that would authorize regulation and taxing of electronic sweepstakes machines, according to an affidavit filed in federal court.

According to the affidavit, the senator was wearing a wire at the time.Although the document does not identify the senator, the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times, each quoting an unnamed source, have reported that it was Sen. Terry Link, D-Indian Creek, who chairs a subcommittee on gaming that was instrumental in pushing through a massive gambling expansion bill this year.

Link has reportedly denied that he was the unnamed senator. At the Statehouse on Tuesday, though, he avoided reporters on his way in and out of a committee meeting and did not return a phone message from Capitol News Illinois seeking comment.

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