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Live from Augusta

by Becky S. on Friday, May 10, 2013

I am sitting here in the Law and Legislative Reference Library on the second floor of the State House.  I might as well bring in pictures of my daughter and a plant or two.  I spend more time here than I do at the office.  So does my friend Hilary (sitting across from me as usual).  She is the Government Relations Director for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network.  We have been here working together to stem the tide of misinformation from the tobacco industry (and their proxies) at the state house.  Luckily, they trot out the same old arguments every time.  Unluckily, there are a dozen of them here today and only two of us.  That is why we need help from YTC advocates.   Your voices drown out the lies with real stories of the devastation from tobacco. 

Tobacco is terrible for the heart. Approximately 128,000 Americans die from cardiovascular diseases caused by tobacco smoke each year.  The chemicals in tobacco smoke damage the function of your heart and harm your blood cells.  Tobacco smoke leads to coronary heart disease which in turn can lead to heart attack, heart failure, arrhythmias, stroke and even death. Smokers have twice the heart attack risk of non-smokers.  

It is also important to note that smokeless tobacco has also been linked to greater incidence of fatal heart attacks and strokes. The bottom line is that no tobacco product is safe to use and all should be taxed equally. Maine’s unfair tax laws allow some tobacco products to cheap and readily accessible to youth.

When I started working in public health just over a decade ago, products like Snus, Orbs, Sticks, and strawberry cigars that mirror lip gloss were not on our radar screen.  However, that was a time when, nationally, there was a big push to raise the excise tax on cigarettes, ban indoor smoking and the agreement between Maine (and 46 other states) and big tobacco banned “Joe Camel” and the more egregious youth marketing.  The tobacco industry had to get creative and more subtle.  They are very bright people with the money to hire the best.  They knew that they needed a shift in strategy.  This led to a mushrooming of new products designed not only to appeal to youth, but also to circumvent cigarette tax and smoke-free laws. 

It is our job to stop them from finding those “replacement smokers” in our middle and high schools.  The best way to do that?  Raise the price of tobacco. 

Let’s get to work. 

Head back to the YTC home page and take action today.

Becky.smith@heart.org  207-523-3007

 

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