The recent Sun Journal article on the MaineCare budget discussions (Jan. 11) included a remark by House Speaker Robert Nutting that requires a response.
In his statement, the speaker referred to cigarette tax increases as “gimmicks.” I want to make it clear that the “gimmick” the speaker was referring to was using cigarette tax revenue to address budget shortfalls.
He, like all of us, is entitled to his opinion on that matter.
But there is overwhelming evidence from Maine, and throughout the nation, that increasing the price of cigarettes by raising the excise tax is the most rapid and effective way to lower adult smoking rates and keep young people from starting to smoke.
Every time the cigarette tax has been raised in Maine, per capita sales drop, as do smoking rates. People do not drive to New Hampshire; they quit smoking.
The American Lung Association strongly supports efforts to keep the price of cigarettes high by periodic increases in the excise tax as sound health and economic policy. One of the major drivers of Maine’s high health care costs is tobacco-caused disease and disability.
If we want to address the “root causes” of this situation, then we can’t ignore tobacco use.
Edward Miller, Augusta
Vice president for Health Promotion and Public Policy, American Lung Association