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Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

Conservative Republicans at the Kansas Statehouse are attempting to block passage of Medicaid expansion until lawmakers send a constitutional amendment on abortion to voters.

The amendment, which would overturn a recent Kansas Supreme Court ruling that declared abortion a right protected by the state’s Bill of Rights, has passed the Senate but remains a handful of votes short in the House.

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

Kansas is slipping to the back of the pack on some critical economic measures. In this episode of Statehouse Blend Kansas, host Jim McLean talks with Kansas Department of Commerce Secretary David Toland about what the agency is doing to try to reverse those trends.

McLean also hears from Kansas News Service reporters about a proposal to ban the sale of vaping flavors, and he asks why Republicans resist Democratic Governor Laura Kelly’s proposal to create an independent office on energy policy.

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

TOPEKA, Kansas — A proposal to ban all fruity and sweet vaping flavors in Kansas has upset both pro-vaping and anti-tobacco groups.

Hundreds of popular flavors would disappear. Menthol would remain. The flavor restrictions wouldn’t apply to traditional tobacco products, such as cigarettes.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

The Shawnee Mission and Blue Valley school districts on Monday joined at least five other school districts nationwide that have authorized lawsuits against the country’s leading e-cigarette maker, Juul Labs. 

Both districts approved resolutions seeking damages they claim they’ve incurred as a result of students’ use of the devices.

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

TOPEKA, Kansas — Cigarettes are so yesterday.

Or yesteryear.

That’s why that old-fashioned, combustible path to a nicotine buzz wasn’t the top concern for a small group of high schoolers in Sabetha — a 2,500-person town about an hour north of Topeka near the Nebraska border — when they got city council to hike the minimum age for buying tobacco products to 21.

“I don’t really know anyone that smokes cigarettes around here because they’re really gross,” Sabetha High senior Kinsey Menold said. “Then, like, Juuls came in.”

There have been more than 1,000 illnesses and multiple deaths linked to e-cigarettes. Now some research from Butler University finds the health problems of vaping go even further. 

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A Johnson County, Kansas, resident has filed a class action lawsuit claiming the country’s leading electronic cigarette maker, Juul Labs, fraudulently concealed the addictive nature of its vaping products and misrepresented their safety.

Isaac Gant says he began vaping as a senior in high school four years ago and now is addicted to nicotine, suffers from respiratory problems, bouts of anxiety, coughing fits and the need to take frequent breaks at work to satisfy his nicotine cravings.

Segment 1: Educators see more vaping in schools, and researchers are beginning to understand how e-cigarettes affect lungs

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

KANSAS CITY, Kansas — Many people figure vaping spares their health because it lets them inhale nicotine in aerosols instead of sucking in smoke from burning cigarettes.

New research from the University of Kansas casts doubt on that, raising the specter that vaping nicotine may cause some of the same respiratory problems that plague and even kill smokers today.

“Vaping is just considered not harmful, even though there are no data to support that statement,” researcher Matthias Salathe said. “There are more and more data to actually oppose that statement.”

frankieleon / Flickr - CC

Segment 1: Government agencies suing pharmaceutical companies look to legal lessons learned from previous settlement against Big Tobacco.

A class-action lawsuit against tobacco companies in the late 1990s netted hundreds of billions of dollars, compensating states for costs associated with treating tobacco-related illness. Now, a comparable strategy could help defray the money cities, counties, and states are shelling out to deal with the opioid crisis. Today, an attorney involved in both cases explained the differences and similarities involved in each.

Madeline Fox / Kansas News Service

Segment 1: After the incumbent's endorsement, Kris Kobach emerges as the GOP nominee to face Greg Orman and Laura Kelly in November's midterm.

With the field set for this fall's gubernatorial election in Kansas, the three campaigns left standing will turn their full attention to winning in November. Before we follow suit, we invited political watchers in Topeka to consider the implications a Kobach-Hartman ticket will have on down-ballot Republicans hoping to appeal to moderate voters.

Marius Mellebye / Creative Commons-Flickr

A Shawnee County District Court judge has temporarily blocked an ordinance that raises the tobacco buying age in Topeka to 21.

The ruling comes after two Topeka businesses, with the assistance of the Kansas Vapers Association, filed a lawsuit this week challenging the ordinance, which was scheduled to go into effect Thursday. The businesses claim the ordinance conflicts with state law, which allows the sale of tobacco to people 18 and older.

E-Cigarette Tax Fix Moves Forward In Kansas

Apr 4, 2017
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The Kansas House voted Tuesday to substantially reduce a tax the state had struggled to enforce on e-cigarette liquid.

File Photo

A decision by the Missouri Supreme Court Tuesday will allow Missouri to recover $50 million in withheld tobacco funds.

The 37-page ruling upheld a decision by a St. Louis Circuit Court judge that found an arbitration panel had exceeded its powers in withholding the money.

The complicated case deals with the terms of a multibillion-dollar settlement agreement reached by 46 states, including Missouri, and four major cigarette manufacturers in 1998.

The Kansas Department of Revenue wants legislators to clarify how to tax vaping products. A bill passed to close the 2015 session included a tax on e-cigarettes that has yet to be enforced.
Andy Marso / Kansas News Service

Two years after the Kansas Legislature enacted its first special tax on e-cigarettes, the state is still trying to figure out how to enforce it and retailers are still saying they’ll be put out of business if it’s enforced.

The tax — 20 cents per milliliter of vaping liquid — was tacked on to a larger bill at the end of the historically long and grinding 2015 session. There were no public hearings on the tax, which originally was supposed to go into effect in July 2016 but was pushed back to January 2017.

Meg Wingerter / Kansas News Service

Dana Stanton drove hours from Hays to a Friday meeting in Topeka hoping to learn what the governor’s budget proposal would mean for the children’s programs she oversees.

After the Kansas Children’s Cabinet meeting adjourned, she didn’t know much more than she did before.

Andy Marso / Kansas News Service

Public health advocates pushing for Kansas to increase taxes on cigarettes and other tobacco products are running into the same opposing arguments they did two years ago.

University of Kansas Cancer Center Director Roy Jensen and others pushed for a $1.50-per-pack tax hike in 2015 and were disappointed when the Legislature ultimately settled on a 50-cent increase.

Tobacco Money Plays Key Role In Brownback Budget Plan

Jan 11, 2017
Creative Commons-Pixabay

Gov. Sam Brownback’s budget proposal would sell the state’s future payments from tobacco companies to plug financial holes for the next two years.

The budget proposal — outlined Wednesday morning — calls for the state to receive $265 million from “securitizing” the tobacco payments in fiscal year 2018, which starts in July, and the same amount in the following year.

Alex Smith / Heartland Health Monitor

For many Missouri health advocates, an increase in the state’s tobacco tax is long overdue.

At 17 cents per cigarette pack, it’s the lowest in the country by far – a fraction of the tax in many states. And it hasn’t changed since 1993.

Groups like the American Lung Association say Missouri’s low cigarette prices are a major reason the state has one of the highest smoking rates in the country. Twenty-two percent of Missouri adults smoke, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Peggy Lowe / KCUR 89.3

GOP incumbent U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt on Thursday denied ownership of pro-tobacco legislation that he tried to place in a homeland security bill in 2002, a criticism that has dogged him for a decade.

First, local undecided voters react to the slug fest that was the second presidential debate. Then, a look at a few measures on the Missouri 2016 ballot concerning cigarette taxes and establishing ID requirements for voting. 

Updated July 26 with new lawsuit filings – Opponents of a ballot initiative to raise Missouri's cigarette tax have filed two new lawsuits designed to stop it from appearing on the November ballot.

The first new suit was filed Friday by Joplin convenience store owner Patty Arrowood.  She contends that the ballot initiative would appropriate state funding, which only the legislature can do, and also allow religious groups to receive state revenues.

Sarah Long / Joyful Photography

Funding cuts and changes for children’s programs across the state became a reality at the start of this month — and that means fewer Kansas families will receive some services.

An official with TARC, a Shawnee County organization that serves people with developmental disabilities, said the nonprofit was out of options for administrative cuts in the wake of state funding reductions.

Courtesy Topeka USD 501

Parents as Teachers is receiving the same amount of funding in Kansas as it did last year, but program administrators are concerned they will not be able to continue helping some families due to new rules.

The Legislature this year approved a switch in the funding source for Parents as Teachers from the Children’s Initiatives Fund, a state pool of money paid by tobacco companies, to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) , a federal fund best known for providing cash assistance for a limited time.

Courtesy Coffeyville USD 445

Children’s programs across the state are scrambling to deal with grant cuts that take effect at the start of July.

The cuts come from a $3.3 million reduction in funding for the Kansas Children’s Cabinet, which uses the state’s share of the 1998 master settlement agreement with large tobacco companies to provide grants through the Children’s Initiatives Fund for programs for children and families.

Overland Park Raises Age Of Tobacco Purchase To 21

May 17, 2016
File photo / Heartland Health Monitor

The Overland Park City Council on Monday set 21 as the minimum age to buy tobacco products, meaning that a regional campaign has now upped the legal age in the metropolitan area’s five largest cities.

The council approved the ordinance Monday on a 9-3 vote, with council members Dave Janson, Fred Spears and Dan Stock voting against the measure.

Megan Hart / Heartland Health Monitor

Kansas health advocates lauded the Food and Drug Administration’s decision Thursday to regulate electronic cigarettes, while those in the vaping industry pointed to harm to businesses and people trying to quit smoking.

The FDA announced that it would ban selling or giving free samples of e-cigarettes and their nicotine cartridges, cigars, hookahs and pipe tobacco to people younger than 18. Kansas law already forbids the sale of e-cigarettes to minors.

Jim McLean / KHI News Service

Kansas officials got the bad news they were expecting Wednesday.

After reading the economic tea leaves and noting that state tax collections have been short of expectations in 11 of the past 12 months, the Consensus Revenue Estimating Group reduced its revenue projections for this budget year and the next by $228.6 million.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

A correctional officer stands accused of smuggling tobacco, drugs and other contraband into the Leavenworth Detention Center, U.S. Attorney for Kansas Barry Grissom announced Monday.

“Inmates could have their choice of vices,” Grissom said at a news conference. “Everything from methamphetamine to tobacco.”

Anthon Aiono, 28, of Platte City, Missouri, has been charged in federal court with conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, providing methamphetamine to inmates, providing synthetic marijuana to inmates and providing tobacco products to inmates.

Alex Smith / Heartland Health Monitor

Over the past several months, teams of local health advocates have been making their way from one local city to another, lobbying city leaders to raise the legal age for the purchase of tobacco to 21.

Since its launch last October, Tobacco 21, a coalition made up of business, government and health groups, has run up a string of victories in some of the area’s largest cities, including Kansas City, Missouri; Kansas City, Kansas; and Olathe, Kansas.

But the reception they got in Gardner, Kansas, on March 21 was a first.

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