In the past 50 years, we've made progress combating the health consequences of smoking. But, unless we continue to fight against tobacco use, 5.6 million of today's children will die early from smoking, according to this year's report from the acting U.S. Surgeon General, the nation's doctor.
Smoking remains the most preventable cause of chronic disease and death. Decreasing tobacco use and limiting youth access to tobacco are part of the RiverStone Health Board of Health's public health policy agenda.
We know strategies that work. Multiple studies show that raising tobacco taxes decreases tobacco use. Data from the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids indicates that every 10 percent increase in the cost of tobacco products results in a 7 percent decline in youth smoking and a 4 percent total decline in smoking.
The World Health Organization is using World No Tobacco Day, May 31, to advocate increasing tobacco taxes. In Montana, the tax on a pack of cigarettes is $1.70. But 15 states have taxes of more than $2.
Increasing tobacco taxes produces results that extend beyond increasing state revenue and reducing tobacco use. It also decreases Medicaid spending and health care costs associated with diseases caused by smoking, and it reduces secondhand smoke, a natural byproduct of burning tobacco, which harms bystanders.
As a society, we need to move toward making the next generation tobacco-free. Raising tobacco taxes is one way to do it.
Clair R. Oakley