Throughout the year, our blog will feature AHA volunteer stories of survival and hope. We know there are thousands of stories like these - thats why we want to say “Thanks” to all of you for giving your time and sharing your lives with us. You can’t spell CURE without U! Thank you for all you do to build healthier lives free of cardiovascular disease and stroke. YOU’RE THE CURE!

Monday, June 22, 2009

President Obama Signs FDA Regulation of Tobacco into Law!

Today, we’re celebrating a monumental victory in the fight against heart disease and stroke. Representing the American Heart Association’s 22 million volunteers, supporters and dedicated staff, AHA President Dr. Timothy Gardner and I were thrilled to stand with President Obama at the White House as he signed the bipartisan Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act. This legislation represents another huge step toward breaking the deadly cycle of tobacco addiction that leads to an increased risk of heart disease and stroke for millions of Americans.

This bill, which had tremendous support from Republicans and Democrats alike, will give the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the clear authority to regulate the manufacturing, advertising and promotion of tobacco products in order to protect public health. The bill also focuses on limiting advertising that targets our kids. It is estimated that the legislation will result in an eleven percent decline in underage smoking over the next decade and will significantly reduce the annual $100 billion cost for tobacco-related illnesses in the U.S.

Why is this legislative victory so important? Nearly one-third of cardiovascular disease deaths are linked to smoking, and tobacco use is the single most preventable cause of heart disease and stroke. For generations, tobacco companies lied to the public about the deadly dangers of tobacco use. They lied about the addictiveness of nicotine. They made misleading health claims about light and low-tar products. And they shamelessly and aggressively marketed to children to attract new smokers. These unconscionable practices will finally be reined in with effective government oversight of an industry that has placed profits above the health of the American people.

American Heart Association volunteers and staff, along with our public health partners, have been working for over a decade to see this legislation become law. We are extremely proud to have played a major role in moving this legislation through Congress and to have had the opportunity to join our Congressional champions today in witnessing the bill signing.

This measure, along with many other policy initiatives the association supports on the local, state and national level, directly impacts our mission to build healthier lives free of cardiovascular disease and stroke. This historic public health victory would not have been possible without the tenacious efforts and unwavering support of our You’re the Cure advocates — the volunteers and staff who worked to generate Congressional and public support for the measure.

If you are not already involved, you too can play a vital role in American Heart Association legislative advocacy efforts. Start today by thanking Members of Congress and the President for making this legislation a reality. Visit to send your email.

I would also like to extend a personal and very special thank you to former CEOs Cass Wheeler and Dudley Hafner, who devoted much of their AHA careers to advancing this issue by meeting with members of Congress and speaking out loudly about the deadly effects of tobacco on our nation’s youth.

And finally, while the FDA bill represents an important victory, the fight against tobacco is not over. We must continue to push for smoke-free workplace laws, higher tobacco excise taxes and funding for comprehensive smoking prevention and cessation programs to help break the cycle of addiction and create a healthier environment for our families. We’re counting on your continued support to help us achieve these important goals.


Nancy Brown
Chief Executive Officer

P.S. You can learn more about this bill and our other legislative issues and share your comments on our You’re the Cure blog. You may also want to join Cass Wheeler, our former CEO, on Twitter as he shares his thoughts on this historic win. Follow him @casswheeler.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Minnesota Zoo Adopts Smoke-Free Policy for Entire Facility

Beginning this Saturday, June 20, 2009, the Minnesota Zoo will no longer allow smoking in any outdoor areas except the main parking lots.

Citing health concerns and the need for a cleaner environment, the Zoo will join nearly two-thirds of all zoos and aquariums accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) that are either entirely smoke-free or have designated smoking areas. In addition, the adoption of this smoke-free policy makes all zoos and animal parks in Minnesota completely smoke free! The other smoke-free zoos in Minnesota include Prairie Winds Zoo in Adrian, Paul Bunyan's Animal Land in Bemidji, Oxbow Park and Zollman Zoo in Byron, Lake Superior Zoo in Duluth, Pine Grove Park Zoo in Little Falls, and Como Park Zoo in St. Paul.

"Families visiting the Minnesota Zoo are engaging in a multi-generational, nature-focused, educational and fun experience," said Minnesota Zoo Director/CEO Lee Ehmke. "That experience will be enhanced by this new non-smoking policy."

The Minnesota Zoo has always prohibited smoking inside buildings, but has allowed smoking outdoors. The new policy allows smoking only in the main parking lots. Minnesota Zoo guests wishing to smoke may request a hand-stamp at the Guest Services Desk for easy access back into the Zoo.

The Minnesota Zoo is located in Apple Valley and is open daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
To thank the Zoo for adopting the policy, call 952.431.9217 or email .

Special thanks to all the youth and adults throughout Minnesota, and especially from Dakota County, who worked for over three years encouraging the Minnesota Zoo to adopt this policy!

To check out media coverage on this story, go to:

Star Tribune article

KARE 11 story

About Tobacco-Free Youth Recreation

Tobacco-Free Youth Recreation assists Twin Cities metro area communities in adopting tobacco-free policies for their park areas. If there are any questions about tobacco-free parks, please contact Brittany McFadden, Tobacco-Free Youth Recreation director at (651) 646-3005 or , or go to

Thursday, June 11, 2009

U.S. Senate Passes FDA Regulation of Tobacco!

Statement by American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown on
Senate Passage of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act

June 11, 2009

The U.S. Senate has taken a bold and courageous step to ensure a healthier future for our children with passage of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act. The legislation will allow us to protect them from a dirty business that has infiltrated school grounds and homes for many generations. For far too long, the industry has misled consumers and manipulated children with false claims about its deadly products. Too many graveyards are marked by the consequences of the industry’s actions. With each puff of a cigarette, smokers increase their risk for heart disease, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases and Big Tobacco’s irresponsible marketing campaigns have made it increasingly difficult to break the cycle of addiction and save lives. This legislation provides a tremendous opportunity to finally hold tobacco companies accountable and restrict efforts to addict more children and adults. It has been a long and challenging process to move the bill through Congress but the determination of many concerned parents and supporters has never wavered. The Senate vote is a significant victory for all Americans as we try to reduce the devastating toll tobacco use has inflicted on our communities.

We commend Senators Ted Kennedy, Christopher Dodd and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for their leadership and commitment in passing strong tobacco control legislation that will improve the health of our nation.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Is Your Heart Still Racing After Session?!

Even though legislative session has ended, there is still much to be done to achieve our legislative priorities. Regardless of whether bills advanced this year, it is clear that the end of another legislative session will provide new opportunities and challenges for building healthier lives, free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke!

Beginning as your new Minnesota Grassroots Advocacy Director, I am excited to join you in this effort. My name is Melissa Horn and I currently also staff the Illinois Grassroots Director position at the American Heart Association. Though transitioning after our staff reductions will be difficult, I want to assure you that we will work to keep up our grassroots movement in Minnesota in the fight for a cure for heart disease and stroke.

In 2004, my Mom suffered a heart attack. Thanks to your efforts throughout the years to make life-saving research a priority, I am happy to report that my Mom survived! And now, MY heart beats to ensure that other daughters, sons, and loved ones continue to tell those same stories of survival!

However, being the "New Kid" is never easy even when you're passionate about a cause like heart disease and stroke. It takes time to figure out how everything works.

As a You're the Cure advocate, you too might still be trying to find your way around our network. No worries! Your American Heart Association has made it easy for you to be a successful advocate.

When you log in to, you'll notice a tool bar on the side that lists "Home", "Take Action", "My Profile", and much more. Take some time to click through each tab - I promise you will find the information extremely useful.

Don't know who your legislators are? Not sure how to contact your Senator or Representative? No problem! Click "My Profile ", which lists your legislators contact information including their picture. You can also click on "Information Resources" to find other elected officials in your area.

Not sure if you missed action alerts this session and still want to take action on legislation affecting heart disease and stroke? Your American Heart Association has you covered! Simply click on "Take Action" to view State and Federal alerts to send to your legislators about important heart disease/stroke issues.

Interested in finding out how you can help our advocacy efforts by volunteering off-line? E-mail me at to find out how you can take action in your community by writing letters to the editor of your local newspaper, meeting with your legislators in district, or helping spread the word about You're the Cure at American Heart Association events across Minnesota. (and much more!)

Many thanks to each of you for your dedication as You're the Cure advocates. With your help, a day will come when heart disease and stroke will no longer claim the lives of our loved ones. I am privileged to work with each of you.

Please feel free to contact me with any questions you may have or to introduce yourself at


Melissa Horn