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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

NH should do more to prevent smoking

Letter to the Editor

Tobacco use begins in childhood and rapidly produces addiction, long-term use and premature death. This was made clear on March 8 by the surgeon general’s report, “Preventing Tobacco Use Among Youth and Young Adults.”

The report emphasizes that smoking begins during childhood. Nine out of 10 smokers start under age 18.

One in four high-school seniors smokes cigarettes. Three out of four continue smoking into adulthood. One-third will die prematurely, many during middle age.

Youth smoking can be prevented, and the surgeon general’s report describes how. Funding comprehensive, statewide, multicomponent tobacco control programs could cut youth tobacco use in half within a decade.

Yet New Hampshire state government ranks 50th among U.S. states in funding such programs – spending $0 – despite annual revenue of $220 million from tobacco taxes and $44 million from the federal tobacco settlement.

Comprehensive programs are not the only approach the surgeon general emphasizes. The report also states, “Taxing tobacco products is especially effective in reducing their use among young people.”

Here again, New Hampshire is unique among the 50 states. Looking out only for the profits of retailers, New Hampshire legislators have actually lowered the tobacco tax.

The toll of tobacco is huge: It kills more than 400,000 Americans a year, more than any other legal product. We are now in a position to end this epidemic, but only if we invest.

Tobacco taxes should be raised and tobacco settlement dollars should be used as they were intended – to fund a statewide tobacco prevention program.

Dr. Mark Israel

Director

Norris Cotton Cancer Center

Dr. James Sargent

Professor of Pediatrics

Dartmouth Medical School

Lebanon