2018 Public Health Law and Policy Review

January 03, 2019|10:47 a.m.| ASTHO Staff

States addressed several public health issues last year, including opioids, immunizations, tobacco, and injury prevention. Before the 2019 state legislative sessions kick into high gear, here’s a quick look at some of the public health law and policy activities from 2018.

  • Opioids: Georgia, Colorado, and Alabama made updates and enhancements to their prescription drug monitoring programs while Nebraska went to an all-prescription data system. Tennessee and West Virginia joined several other states in setting daily and dosage limits for opioid prescription for acute pain. Arizona and Florida also enacted opioid prescription limits as well as an additional requirement that an opioid antagonist, such as naloxone, be co-prescribed with certain opioid prescriptions.
  • Immunizations: In many states, attempts to expand or add non-medical exemptions for school vaccinations were withstood. In Tennessee, a bill to require those who administer vaccines to read the entire vaccine information statement to patients was also defeated. While proponents claimed it to be a way of providing information to patients, opponents of the bill argued it placed an additional burden on getting vaccinated. Louisiana revised its mandatory vaccine requirements by requiring 11th graders to have up to date vaccinations. This will help expand vaccination coverage for those high school graduates who do not attend college.
  • Tobacco: In Louisiana, the number for state’s tobacco quitline will be displayed at the point of sale. Alaska became the latest state to enact a statewide smoke-free workplace law and Massachusetts became the sixth state to raise the age for the sale of tobacco to 21.
  • Scope of practice: Virginia adopted a law to allow nurse practitioners to transition to independent practice. Kansas and Louisiana became the 30th and 31st states to enact the enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact, which allows certain nurses to have a multistate license.
  • Suicide Prevention: Several states, including Colorado, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Rhode Island, Utah, and New Mexico enacted laws to address youth suicide prevention by requiring school staff training or commissioning studies on the issue. Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Vermont became the latest to states to establish extreme risk protection orders which allow the court-ordered removal of dangerous weapons from individuals who pose a risk to themselves.
  • Marijuana and hemp: Alaska will now allocate 25 percent of its non-medical marijuana tax revenue for marijuana use education and treatment. Indiana will allow the distribution and sale of low THC hemp extract (i.e., no more than 0.3% THC) as along as specific testing and labeling requirements are met.

This is only a sample of the public health laws and policies states enacted in 2018. ASTHO will continue to keep track of these issues and more throughout 2019. Also, keep an eye out for ASTHO’s 2019 Legislative Prospectus series which will explore the ways states and territories are using law and policy to address flu vaccine rates, neonatal abstinence syndrome, maternal mortality and morbidity, e-cigarettes, and Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) contamination. Each prospectus will take a look at the law and policy trends aimed at addressing these issues and how states and territories may continue to address them in 2019.

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