• Increase Tax on Cigarettes in Louisiana
  • By now, everyone knows two things — Louisiana is in a budget crisis, and smoking is bad for your health. There is one action that can have a positive impact on both these problems — increasing the price of cigarettes.

    As a health-care provider taking care of cancer patients for the past 20 years, I support a cigarette tax increase because it’s a proven way to discourage young people from starting to smoke and to encourage smokers to quit.

    Smoking raises the risk of heart disease and cancer, and while not all smokers suffer devastating outcomes, I have seen many heart-breaking examples wherein smoking was a factor.

    Disfiguring head and neck cancers, lethal lung cancers, debilitating lung and heart disease rob people of this state of their freedom and independence. They are unable to work, care for their families or pursue their dreams.

    The health costs associated with treating tobacco-related diseases are enormous and often beyond the ability of a typical person to pay. Interventions, medications and treatment often reach into the tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

    Because of the interval from when a person begins to use tobacco to the presentation of disease, many affected Louisiana residents are in their fifth, sixth or seventh decade of life and are on Medicare or Medicaid.

    When I first heard the American Cancer Society report that, “In Louisiana each year, an astounding 11.8 million packs of cigarettes are bought or smoked by our children and 6,700 kids under 18 become new daily smokers,” I did not want to believe it. But when I take a hard look at the young teens around where I live and work — many of them have cigarettes in their hands!

    Raising cigarette prices is one of the most effective ways to prevent and reduce smoking, especially among youngsters, and to save lives and cut health-care costs.