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Cigarette-tax hike to finance research at cancer centers

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http://www.courier-journal.com/apps/pbc ... /505300374

Cigarette-tax hike to finance research at cancer centers

UK, U of L will split 1 cent a pack

By Betsy Vereckey

Associated Press

Health officials hope money from an increase in Kentucky's cigarette tax will help them better understand and treat cancer, which kills thousands in the state each year.

When Kentucky's tax on a pack of cigarettes rises from 3 cents to 30 cents Wednesday, a penny of the increase will finance cancer research.

The state will split the money between the University of Louisville's James Graham Brown Cancer Center and the University of Kentucky's Lucille P. Markey Cancer Center.

The tax is expected to raise $2.5 million to $3 million annually for cancer research, and $5 million to $6 million total after the universities raise matching funds, said state Sen. Tim Shaughnessy, D-Louisville, who pushed for the funding.

Kentucky has the nation's highest adult smoking rate at nearly 31 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The state cigarette tax is the lowest in the nation.

Kentucky has some of the highest rates of tobacco-related tumors and lung cancer in the country, said Donald Miller, director of the Brown Cancer Center.

"We see so many families that have been impacted by lung cancer," Miller said.

The centers also will use money from the tax to seek accreditation from the National Cancer Institute, which would bring leading researchers and top-notch facilities.

"By becoming a hub for cancer treatment, cancer patients would not have to leave the state to get state-of-the-art treatment," said Shaughnessy, whose mother died of cancer.

"Cancer is a tough enough battle to fight. You at least should be able to fight it on your home court."

Some longtime smokers aren't standing in the way.

"I wish it would be more than a penny," said 34-year-old James McClure, who lives in Jeffersonville, Ind., and has smoked for 22 years. "I'd like to see 50 cents of it go to cancer research."

Patricia Devers, of Louisville, said she has smoked off and on for 20 years, and had even kicked the habit for six months.

But then her husband got sick.

Visiting him at University Hospital in Louisville, and smoking a cigarette outside, Devers said she thinks the penny from the cigarette tax isn't enough.

"Actually, for something like that, it needs to be more. And from a smoker, that's pretty sad, but it needs to be more," said Devers, 36, who worries about getting cancer.

At the Brown Cancer Center, the funds will be used to develop new treatments and recruit top doctors and scientists.

"One of our goals is to be included in the top 10 cancer centers in the country," Miller said. "This kind of support will let us do that."

At the Markey Cancer Center, researchers will use the money to conduct "high-risk, high-reward" programs for which it is difficult to obtain government financing, said Dr. Alfred Cohen, the center's director.

They will test new treatments in hope of fighting all kinds of diseases caused by smoking, including lung, pancreatic and bladder cancers.

The money also will be used to build a tobacco-related cancer program, expand biomedical research and keep the research facility on track to receive National Cancer Institute accreditation.

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