J. Chandler: End the tobacco epidemic

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Recently, the American Lung Association released its 2014 State of Tobacco Control report card. It tracks every state’s progress in fighting tobacco. Maine was a leader in this effort — becoming the first state in the nation to receive straight “A’s” in 2005. However, this year’s report card is one to hide from your parents — two “D’s,” one “C” and one “A.”

Maine’s adult smoking rate has become stagnant after several years of decline. Too many youths are smoking cigarettes and using other tobacco products, such as little cigars.

While the state’s high school smoking rate is slightly lower than the national average, great disparities exist across Maine based on income levels and geographic location, resulting in significantly higher smoking rates. For example, in Washington County, the high school smoking rate is more than 80 percent higher, at 19.7 percent, than Cumberland County’s rate of 10.8 percent.

As the nation celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Surgeon General’s report that first linked smoking to lung cancer, it is time to revitalize efforts to end the tobacco epidemic.

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Research demonstrates that the best way to end the deadly health and financial impacts of tobacco is a comprehensive approach consisting of high tobacco taxes, strong smoke-free air laws, barrier-free help for smokers to quit and a well-funded tobacco control program.

It is time to put that research into practice.

John Chandler, Auburn

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