BALTIMORE – Cancer patients and survivors are marking the American Cancer Society’s (ACS) 45th annual Great American Smokeout today by calling on lawmakers to protect the health of Maryland residents by overriding Gov. Hogan’s veto of a potentially lifesaving tobacco tax increase. As our battle with COVID-19 continues, we must do everything in our power to keep our communities healthy and safe—which means building strong public health infrastructure including comprehensive tobacco control measures.
As the advocacy affiliate of ACS, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN), supports evidence-based strategies proven to reduce tobacco use including comprehensive smoke-free laws, regular and significant tobacco excise tax increases, and adequately funding evidence-based tobacco prevention and cessation programs.
This effort to combat tobacco addiction comes at a critical moment, as Big Tobacco has now succeeded in hooking a new generation on tobacco products. E-cigarette use has reached significant levels among youth, with approximately one in five high school students (19.6%) currently using e-cigarettes.
In March, the Maryland Legislature passed a bill (HB732), which included line items for increasing the state cigarette tax by $1.75 per pack and earmarking $18.25 million toward tobacco prevention and cessation programs. It also would have increased the tax on some types of other tobacco products and would tax e-cigarettes for the first time.
However, Gov. Larry Hogan vetoed the bill once it reached his desk for approval.
To mark the Great American Smokeout, ACS CAN volunteers are joining bill sponsor Sen. Cory McCray to urge lawmakers to override the Gov.’s tobacco tax veto in this upcoming legislation session.
“The Great American Smokeout is about helping people quit, and we know that significantly increasing Maryland’s tobacco tax is one of the best ways to encourage quitting,” said Jocelyn Collins, director of government relations for ACS CAN in Maryland. “We’re extremely disappointed by the governor’s decision to veto this bill in the Spring, which would have made a significant difference for the people of Maryland, as well as the state economy – but lawmakers have the opportunity to change that by overriding his veto in January.”
“We know that regular and significant increases in tobacco taxes mean fewer people use tobacco, fewer tobacco-related deaths and fewer youth who ever become addicted to these deadly products. This is especially important now, as we know smoking cigarettes can lead to worse outcomes when diagnosed with COVID-19 ”
Reducing Big Tobacco’s grip on Maryland is not only crucial to reducing death from tobacco-related disease, but it’s also imperative to reduce health disparities in the state. The tobacco industry’s marketing strategies have led to significant disparities in tobacco use including higher use of tobacco products among people with lower incomes, Blacks, American Indian and Alaskan Natives, and LGBTQ+ individuals. The lack of comprehensive tobacco control laws and funding in a locality or state can contribute to disparities in tobacco use. The availability of cheap tobacco products makes it easy for people, in particular youth, to start and continue to use tobacco products.
“While we’ve made progress in tobacco control, we have to remember that we have a long way to go when it comes to combatting Big Tobacco’s influence and protecting our communities from tobacco’s toll. Maryland has not passed a single tobacco tax in over a decade, and it’s long overdue,” said Collins.
“Smoking is still linked to more than one-quarter of cancer-related deaths in our state—and results in $2.7 billion per year in state health care costs. Additionally, 23% of Maryland high school students are currently using e-cigarettes, which have been linked to the use of other tobacco products.
The use of tobacco products remains the nation’s number one cause of preventable death, killing more than 480,000 Americans, and costing $170 billion in health care costs and $151 billion in lost productivity annually. In Maryland, tobacco is responsible for 7,500 deaths each year.
About ACS CAN
The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) is making cancer a top priority for public officials and candidates at the federal, state and local levels. ACS CAN empowers advocates across the country to make their voices heard and influence evidence-based public policy change as well as legislative and regulatory solutions that will reduce the cancer burden. As the American Cancer Society’s nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy affiliate, ACS CAN is critical to the fight for a world without cancer. For more information, visit www.fightcancer.org.