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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Ami Wazlawik (DFL)

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Addressing youth tobacco use, the climate crisis, and Water Gremlin

Friday, December 06, 2019

Rep. Wazlawik

Dear neighbors,

I hope you had a wonderful holiday and were able to spend some extra time with your loved ones last week. I’m grateful to live in and represent this community! Thank you for giving me the opportunity to serve.

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This week I joined community members to celebrate the fantastic projects and organizations receiving grants from the Greater White Bear Lake Community Foundation.


Curbing Youth Tobacco Use

In Minnesota, we won’t stand by as the tobacco industry targets our kids. Juul and other tobacco companies have used misinformation and kid-friendly flavors to get children and young adults hooked on their products. Their deceptive and predatory marketing led many Minnesotans to think that vaping was a cleaner and safer alternative to smoking cigarettes. There was a surge in e-cigarette use, and in 2017, the number of young Minnesotans using tobacco rose for the first time in 17 years. Since then, the problem has only gotten worse. The number of people using e-cigarettes has skyrocketed. Vaping-related injuries are being reported in Minnesota and across the nation, but many people still believe it’s a safe or low-risk activity.

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My House DFL colleagues and I recently introduced a new, comprehensive plan to curb this epidemic and protect young Minnesotans. You can read more about the plan here, but these are some highlights:

  • Raising the tobacco sales age from 18 to 21
  • Increasing youth education and prevention efforts statewide
  • Banning the sale of flavored products targeted towards young people and communities of color
  • Eliminating online sales, which tobacco companies exploit to sell their products to underage Minnesotans

In addition to addressing this crisis, we need to hold Big Tobacco accountable for their role in creating it. This week, Governor Walz and Attorney General Ellison announced that the State of Minnesota is suing Juul – the nation’s largest e-cigarette maker – for using deceptive marketing practices, targeting young people, and creating a public health crisis. If the lawsuit is successful, Juul could be ordered to stop marketing to children and to fund educational campaigns and programs that help young people stop vaping.


Addressing the Climate Crisis

On Wednesday, the Climate Action Caucus held a community conversation about the health effects of climate change. Doctors, nurses, and public health experts opened the meeting with a series of presentations about problems that they’re already seeing across Minnesota, including issues with asthma and allergies and higher rates of heat-related and tick-borne illnesses. These health issues disproportionately impact low-income people and communities of color, and they’re expected to intensify. We need to address the health impacts that we’re already experiencing and prevent more from emerging.

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Water Gremlin in the News

State health officials have identified 12 additional children who may have been poisoned by toxic lead residue from the Water Gremlin plant. They now believe that as many as 24 kids were exposed to “take-home lead” that can cause brain damage and neurological problems. After this news broke, Walmart announced that they will no longer carry items produced by Water Gremlin. The Star Tribune and WCCO recently published pieces about Walmart’s decision and the court-ordered decontamination process that Water Gremlin is currently undergoing. You can read them here and here.  

Businesses of every size are taking steps to protect workers and their customers. For example, many Minnesota businesses have decided to stop using TCE, a toxic chemical that Water Gremlin released into our community for years. However, there are still some bad actors who put profits before people. I believe that the health of Minnesotans should come first, so I will continue advocating for policies that protect workers and communities and provide support for businesses that are already on the right path.


Make Your Voice Heard

Reminder: Water Gremlin Public Meeting

As I’ve mentioned in previous emails, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, Department of Health, and Department of Labor and Industry are holding an open house next week. Agency staff will provide updates on what’s happening at Water Gremlin and answer questions from community members. There will be time for questions after their presentation, but residents should come early if they’d like to speak one-on-one with agency staff.

When: Wednesday, December 11 from 6:30 – 8:30 p.m. (There will be an informal open house at 6:30 p.m., followed by a presentation at 7 p.m.)
Where: Jimmy’s Event Center, 3565 Labore Road, Vadnais Heights, MN 55110

Please share any questions or feedback you may have and feel free to forward this email on to others who may be interested in signing up for updates. You can reach me at rep.ami.wazlawik@house.mn or 651-296-3018.

Sincerely,

Ami Wazlawik
State Representative

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