Letter to the Editor: Invest in state's tobacco program

March 16, 2017

Tobacco use is the nation's most preventable cause of death, yet nearly half a million people in the United States will die from tobacco-related diseases this year. RIght here in Rhode Island, it is estimated that 1,800 adults will die due to their own smoking this year alone.

March 15th is Kick Butts Day - a day of activism that empowers youth to stand out, speak up and seize control against the tobacco industry. Here at home, I believe it's equally important to mark this day reminding lawmakers of importance of supporting proven tools in the fight against tobacco use.

Research shows that states can tackle tobacco use through a three-part approach. This approach includes regular and significant increases in the price of all tobacco products through excise taxes, comprehensive smoke-free laws at the local and state levels that protect everyone's right to breathe smoke-free air and fully funded tobacco prevention and cessation programs that drive people to quit.

Over the past nine years, funding for Rhode Island's tobacco control progra has been slashed from $3.1 million to $375,622. These cuts are happening despite the fact that smoking costs upwards of $216 million in Meicaid expenses annually in Rhode Island, and $458.9 million in smoking-related productivity costs.

As a volunteer with the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN), I encourage Chairman Abney and members of the House Finance Committee to invest in the state's tobacco control program and reduce the number of Rhode Islanders that suffer from cancer, while at the same time saving the state in long-term healthcare costs.

Ethel Ricci

American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network Volunteer