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'No Tobacco Day' focuses on taxes

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By Four Corners Partnership

Saturday will mark the 26th annual World No Tobacco Day sponsored by the World Health Organization.

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This awareness event is designed to highlight the health risks of tobacco use, maintain smoke-free environments and encourage youth not to use tobacco products.

Tobacco use is the single most preventable cause of death globally and accounts for 10 percent of adult deaths worldwide, the organization says.

This year’s theme is “Raise Tobacco Tax, Lower Death and Disease.”

WHO is asking governments to raise tobacco taxes, stating “a tax increase that increases tobacco prices by 10 percent decreases tobacco consumption by about 4 percent in high-income countries.”

Currently, 15 states, District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and Guam have a cigarette tax at $2 per pack or higher; six states have cigarette taxes of $3 per pack; and New York has a cigarette tax of more than $4 per pack.

In July 2013, Minnesota increased taxes on a pack of cigarettes from $1.23 to $2.83, causing the average price to raise to $7.50 a pack. Since that tax hike, QUITPLAN Services, a free tobacco cessation program available to any Minnesotan, saw an increase of 256 percent in their call line compared to the year before.

QUITPLAN Services offers phone coaching, cessation tools and an online support community. These services can be a great resource for people who are trying to quit or thinking of quitting, as well as for people who need support after they already quit.

According to the Minnesota Student Survey, Goodhue County ninth- and 11th- graders were asked whether they have used tobacco products in the past 30 days. With the two grades and both male and female students combined, the results found that 57 percent of them had used some type of tobacco product.

The new tax increase wasn’t just implemented for smokers to quit — it was increased for kids so they would never begin.

“Ninety-six percent of smokers start before the age of 18,” said Gina Johnson, a Tobacco Grant coordinator with Goodhue County Health and Human Services. “We know that price is an important factor for high-schoolers, since many of them don’t have jobs yet. We are hoping this amount will be too expensive so they never start (smoking).”

World No Tobacco Day is a great way to raise awareness for a global problem. This year’s theme shines light on how to help people quit smoking and ways to prevent a new generation from starting.

Four Corners Partnership, coordinated by public health services in Dodge, Goodhue, Rice and Steele counties, advocates for smoke-free policies in the region.

For more about QUITPLAN Services, visit www.quitplan.com or call 1-888-354-PLAN.

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