Lincoln, Neb. – Due to the COVID-19 virus and the elevated risk for those with compromised immune systems, cancer patients, survivors and advocates met virtually with their senators as part of Nebraska Cancer Action Day to make fighting the disease a legislative priority. The annual event organized by the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) drew volunteers from across the state to call on their lawmakers to pass comprehensive tobacco control measures and protect funding for tobacco prevention and cessation programs, as well as for breast, cervical and colon cancer screening programs.
ACS CAN volunteers urged their senators to pass Legislative Bill 459, which would increase the cigarette tax by $1.50 per pack. Significantly increasing tobacco taxes is a proven strategy for saving lives and health care dollars, while producing revenue. A $1.50 per pack cigarette tax increase in Nebraska’s cigarette tax is projected to keep 5,200 kids from becoming adults who smoke, help 8,900 adults who smoke quit, and ultimately save 3,700 lives while generating over $68 million in new annual revenue.
Cancer advocates also asked senators to raise the tax on all tobacco products to 45% of the wholesale price and preserve funding for tobacco prevention and cessation programs to combat the youth tobacco use epidemic, largely driven by e-cigarettes, and help adults quit.
“Tobacco is the leading cause of preventable death and disability in this country. Smoking increases the risk of cancer, heart attack, stroke, among other diseases. It also increases a person’s risk for severe illness from COVID-19,” said Ann Yager, cancer survivor and ACS CAN Nebraska Leadership volunteer. “Those of us who have been touched by cancer are firmly committed to ensure the health and future of our communities are put before Big Tobacco’s interests and bottom line.”
Additionally, the group advocated to preserve the funding for breast, cervical and colon cancer screening programs. The uninsured and underinsured have lower screening rates, resulting in a greater risk of being diagnosed at a later, more advanced, stage of disease. Screening programs provide a lifesaving safety net and are an under-resourced opportunity for lower income, uninsured and underinsured individuals to access cancer screening and early detection services.
This year, over 11,000 Nebraskans will be diagnosed with cancer this year and will begin their fight against the disease. For more information on how ACS CAN is advocating for cancer patients and survivors on the state and federal level or to learn more about how to get involved with our advocacy efforts visit: FightCancer.org/NE.