Maine in 2017 had the sixth-highest rate of tobacco-related cancer cases in the U.S., and the 11th highest rate of tobacco-related deaths nationwide.

The tobacco industry has been preying on our kids, communities of color, the LGBTQ community, rural communities, and lower income humans for generations. The adult tobacco use rates in Maine are higher than the national average. And just over 30% of high school students use e-cigarettes, also known as vaping. This problem is urgent, and we have to act now.

As a former smoker, cancer survivor and caregiver, I know firsthand the devastation a cancer diagnosis brings. My original cancer diagnosis was thought to be metastatic lung cancer in the breast. It was that diagnosis that resulted in my quitting after 23 years. I also lost my mother to lung cancer.

Tobacco use is the top preventable cause of cancer, and fortunately, there are evidence-based policies to help decrease tobacco use. Funding the tobacco prevention and treatment program at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended level of $15.9 million, increasing the tax on cigarettes by $2 per pack, and ending the sale of all flavored tobacco products in Maine — including menthol cigarettes — will reduce usage.

I recently joined the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network Day of Action to discuss these policies with my lawmakers. I’m thankful to Rep. Sheila Lyman for taking time to speak with me and discussing this important issue.

I’ll continue urging our lawmakers to support each of these initiatives and help protect all Mainers from the tobacco industry’s deadly products.

Carol Pesti, Jay

Volunteer, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network

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