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Raise the tobacco tax to lower lung cancer rates AS I SEE IT

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Raise the tobacco tax to lower lung cancer rates AS I SEE IT

June 3 marked the 21st National Cancer Survivors Day. Each year, many Missourians fight for their lives against cancer, and many lose loved ones to the devastating disease.

While many forms of cancer are unavoidable, one of the most deadly forms of cancer can be avoided. Growing up, I learned the devastating effect of tobacco use and how quickly it can take the lives of loved ones.

In junior high, my basketball coach suffered and died of lung cancer. He was a smoker. Our coach was a young man. He was our mentor, and we watched him fight to survive.

He was diagnosed with lung cancer at the beginning of our season. A courageous man, he stayed the entire season. He would participate in practices and run drills with our team.

As the season progressed, so did his cancer. First, he could only walk the court. Then, he could only stand on the sideline and watch. Finally, he could only sit and coach from a chair.

We watched our mentor take on the biggest battle of his life. Before our final game, he died, leaving behind his wife and 2-year-old daughter to cope.

Learning his cancer could have been avoided, I developed a passion to help others learn the dangers of smoking, especially children. I fight every day to make sure no one has to suffer from this devastating disease usually brought on by tobacco use.

One fight this year is to raise the tobacco tax in our state. In Missouri, nearly 10,000 adults will die this year from smoking-related diseases. More than 90 percent of smokers begin before their 18th birthday.

Despite the facts that face Missouri, the state still ranks last in funding for smoking prevention programs and has the second-lowest tobacco tax rate in the country. As a result, we have one of the highest rates of adult and teen smoking.

Currently, a proposal is in the process of qualifying for the November 2006 ballot. This tobacco initiative would raise the tax on a pack of cigarettes by 80 cents.

The funds will be used for smoking prevention and cessation programs and will also increase access to health care. More importantly, for the first time, it will fund programs that will prevent our children from smoking.

This proposal will reduce smoking and save lives. Please join us and unite with the nearly 200 organizations in Missouri to create more survivors of a preventable cancer. You very well could be saving your own loved ones.


Cindy Erickson is the spokesperson for The Committee for a Healthy Future and chief executive officer of the American Lung Association of Missouri. She lives in St. Louis.

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