Support tobacco tax increase to save lives

Yesterday, I visited the state capitol along with 350 other American Cancer Society volunteers and cancer survivors from around the state. We were there to talk to our representatives about cancer-related House Bill 1197.

HB 1197 proposes a $1 increase to the tobacco excise tax. Georgia ranks 43rd in the country at 37 cents. This increase would help offset the $2.25 billion spent treating tobacco related illness here in Georgia. This expense is driven by the unhealthy habits of 20 percent of our population.

The $1 increase could generate more than $500 million to help cover this expense. In addition, the increased cost of tobacco products would help discourage our youth from smoking. One out of every four high school students in Georgia uses tobacco products. The increase could reduce the number of youths starting this terrible habit by 20 percent.

I was not able to talk with my representative, John Heard of Lawrenceville, as he was in committee meetings during the afternoon. Heard has supported us in the past and I am optimistic he'll continue his support in the future.

I urge all of you to contact your representatives and ask for their support of this win-win legislation.

- Duane Downs