Policy Agenda Supports a Healthier Commonwealth

For nearly 100 years, the American Heart Association has worked tirelessly to make policy changes that save and improve lives. This year in Virginia, we took a multi-faceted approach and focused on CPR funding, food access, and fighting against harmful tobacco policies.

Tobacco In addition to fighting for policy, sometimes we must fight against policy.

“Smoking is the most preventable cause of death in the U.S. Almost one third of deaths from coronary heart disease are due to smoking and second-hand smoke,” said Jodi Smith, Vice Chair, Virginia Advocacy Committee.

  • This year there was a big effort in the General Assembly to reduce the sales tax on cigars. As cigarette use is declining, cigar use is increasing, especially cigarillos which are still made with fun and fruity flavors.
  • There was a coordinated effort with multiple industry lobbyists, fighting to reduce cigar retail taxes from 20% to 10%, but thanks to our You’re the Cure network of volunteers, we were able to defeat both bills.

Food Security

  • Produce Rx – Once again our champion Delegate Delores McQuinn, was front and center.
    • Unfortunately, after the agency discovered a major miscalculation on their part, we had to pull the bill because our budget request was not enough to fund it. We will regroup and be back next year, but maybe in a locality.
  • Universal School Meals – A policy change of this magnitude typically takes more than two years to start making traction.
    • We started the fight this year to bring free school meals for all to Virginia with Delegate Mike Mullin.
    • We will be working on this throughout the summer to build a larger coalition of support.
    • Although Delegate Mullin is retiring, Delegate Danica Roem will take the baton and get us across the finish line.

CPR Funding

“Each year, more than 350,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests occur in the U.S. and almost 3 out of 4 of those happen at home,” said Nhu Yearin, Chair of the Virginia Advocacy Committee. “If you’re called on to do CPR, you will likely be saving the life of someone you love: a spouse, a parent or a friend. CPR, especially if performed immediately, could double or triple a cardiac arrest victim’s chance of survival.”

  • Delegate McQuinn fought to add two forms of CPR funding to the budget, one to help schools fund the replacement and repair of their CPR training equipment, and the other to help nonprofit organizations provide free CPR training across the Commonwealth.
  • Although we were not able to add those to the budget this year, next year is a new biennium and we have a much better chance of success.
  • This summer we will be working with school divisions and other nonprofit organizations to gather data and build support for these incredibly important funding initiatives.

Although the 2023 General Assembly session has come to a close, we are already beginning to build coalitions and strategize about how we can further advance policies that save and improve the lives of Virginians. In addition to preparing for 2024 session, we will be working on community policies and outreach. If you have any questions or interests in policies or initiatives, or want to become more involved in the advocacy work of the American Heart Association, please join our You’re the Cure network!