In the News

USRC Goes to Bat for Tobacco Regulation

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February 12, 2014

By Kim Bennion, MHS, BSRT, RRT, CHC

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USRC leaders join WSU students and faculty for a photo op.

The Utah Society for Respiratory Care (USRC) united respiratory therapists across the state to participate in the Tobacco Free Education Day at the Utah State Capitol on February 6.

A week prior to the scheduled rally, Dr. Kevin Nelson, medical chair for the Utah Tobacco Prevention Task Force, reached out to the USRC requesting the support. The two key areas of focus during the rally were increasing the age for tobacco purchases to 21 and support for regulations regarding electronic cigarettes.

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These posters helped drive home key points during the event.

Within a week of Dr. Nelson’s request, the USRC Board had:

  • Created and mailed a USRC Position Letter to each Utah State legislator. The letter included the American Lung Association’s grades for Utah regarding tobacco prevention initiatives reported January 23, 2014, as well as legislation supported by the USRC.
  • Created a flier that was distributed to RTs across Utah prior to the rally and to attendees the day of the rally.
  • Created posters for display in the Capitol Rotunda.
  • Prepared letters in support of HR 2619, the Medicare Respiratory Therapist Access Act, for rally attendees to sign. We felt this was a perfect time to raise state legislator awareness of the federal bill.
  • Contacted local television stations regarding the initiatives being supported by the USRC.

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AARC student members, from left to right, Beth Wilson, Sydney Shiba, Tracey Thomson, and Alison Spendlove staff the DRIVE4COPD/HR 2619 booth.

Over 250 attendees were present at the rally, including leaders in respiratory care throughout the state. Weber State University (WSU) RT students were paramount to the rally’s success. The WSU students made posters, performed more than 40 COPD screenings, and convinced over 200 attendees to sign our legislative letter in support of HR 2619. Many of the signatures came from our physician peers.

Dr. Nelson paid special verbal appreciation to the USRC during his presentation by stating, “The USRC is here because they represent the respiratory therapists in the trenches. They know firsthand the negative impact of tobacco use on adult and pediatric health in the work they perform with COPD, bronchiolitis, and other patients with chronic lung diseases.”

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WSU faculty members and AARC members Lisa Trujillo, left, and Janelle Gardiner explained the American legislative system to visiting physician Dr. William Obeng, from Ghana.

He also introduced us to Utah Health & Human Services Committee Chair Rep. Paul Ray as “individuals who are revolutionizing patient education regarding tobacco prevention and cessation.” Rep. Ray then asked us to attend Utah Health & Human Services Committee meetings and said he would like RTs to have active roles on such committees.

After the rally, Dr. Nelson contacted the USRC with a thank you and requested that we attend upcoming committee hearings on the state tobacco regulations. He also asked us to participate in social media discussions regarding e-cigarettes to counteract the many comments being made in support of these products.

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Steve Abplanalp, far left, and Kim Bennion, far right, enjoyed the chance to visit with Dr. Kevin Nelson, center left, and Utah Rep. Paul Ray.

Both myself and AARC member Steve Abplanalp, MBA, RRT, executive director of respiratory care and sleep medicine for Intermountain Healthcare, were specifically invited to return to the Capitol for a personal discussion with Utah legislators on February 12 as well.

Kim Bennion is president-elect of the USRC and corporate respiratory care quality assurance program manager for Intermountain Healthcare in Salt Lake City, UT.