Today, the front steps of the South Carolina State House were covered in sneakers to remind lawmakers to protect teen health by raising the cigarette tax by $1.50 and prohibiting teens under 18 from using indoor tanning devices. Legislators and volunteers from across the state laced up their sneakers before coming to the Coaches vs Cancer Suits and Sneakers event, part of the annual American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) Day at the State House.
Coach Michael Kleinfelder, a two-time cancer survivor and girls’ soccer coach from Gilbert High School in Lexington County, brought some of his players and their parents to join more than 50 volunteers from across the state who met with legislators.
South Carolina’s 57-cent tax ranks 45th among the states and Washington, DC. It is one of the lowest in the country and is well below the national average of $1.79. An increase of $1.50 per pack will keep 20,700 kids under the age of 18 from becoming adult smokers, result in 34,800 adults quitting, and raise nearly $249 million in new, annual revenue for the state which would be used for healthcare and to increase teacher salaries.
Not only would a $1.50 per pack cigarette tax increase be good for public health, it would benefit the state’s fiscal health as well. Increasing the cigarette tax by this amount will save an estimated $1.12 billion in long-term health care costs. Mississippi currently spends $1.9 billion on tobacco-related health care costs each year and experiences $2.35 billion in lost productivity annually.
“Our Legislature has a chance to save lives, stop kids from smoking, and increase revenue by raising the cigarette tax,” said Beth Johnson, South Carolina government relations director for ACS CAN. “Increasing the cost of tobacco is one of the most effective ways to prevent kids from becoming addicted to these deadly products and to help encourage those already addicted to quit.”
Like tobacco, the World Health Organization has listed indoor tanning devices as carcinogenic to humans and the FDA requires the highest level of warning possible on the packaging—a black box warning.
Melanoma is the most deadly form of skin cancer. In South Carolina this year, an estimated 1,810 people will be diagnosed with the disease. Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States, and on average, one person dies from melanoma every hour.
The earlier a person starts tanning, the greater the risk of getting melanoma and other skin cancers later in life because ultraviolet (UV) radiation can damage DNA in skin cells and is cumulative over time. For those who use an indoor tanning device before the age of 35, their risk of getting melanoma increases by 59 percent.
“The scientific data that supports these recommendations are clear-cut,” said Gustavo W. Leone, Ph.D., director, Hollings Cancer Center, Medical University of South Carolina. “The impact these proposed changes would have on South Carolinians and their health is tremendous and long lasting.”
This year in South Carolina, an estimated 29,830 people will be diagnosed with cancer and 10,720 are expected to die from the disease.
Sneakers displayed on the State House steps will be donated to Teen Challenge of South Carolina, a faith-based solution for youth, adults, and families struggling with life-controlling problems, such as addiction, located in Georgetown.
About Hollings Cancer Center
The Hollings Cancer Center at the Medical University of South Carolina is a National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center and the largest academic-based cancer research program in South Carolina. The cancer center comprises more than 100 faculty cancer scientists and 20 academic departments. It has an annual research funding portfolio of more than $40 million and a dedication to reducing the cancer burden in South Carolina. Hollings offers state-of-the-art diagnostic capabilities, therapies and surgical techniques within multidisciplinary clinics that include surgeons, medical oncologists, radiation therapists, radiologists, pathologists, psychologists and other specialists equipped for the full range of cancer care, including more than 200 clinical trials. For more information, visit http://www.hollingscancercenter.org
About the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network
ACS CAN, the nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy affiliate of the American Cancer Society, supports evidence-based policy and legislative solutions designed to eliminate cancer as a major health problem. ACS CAN works to encourage elected officials and candidates to make cancer a top national priority. ACS CAN gives ordinary people extraordinary power to fight cancer with the training and tools they need to make their voices heard. For more information, visit www.acscan.org.