Thank you for your recent editorial regarding the need to raise the price of cigarettes to reduce the youth smoking (“Cigarette tax a proven way to cut teen smoking,” Jan. 22).

If the cigarette excise tax were raised by $1.50 as proposed recently by the American Lung Association in Maine, there may be some negative short-term consequences as others have suggested.

However, I find the assertion that low-income smokers would take away food and other necessities from their families to feed their habit quite insulting. I can’t imagine any Maine smoker would do such a thing.

I would like to offer a longer-range view. If the proposed tax increase were put into effect and fewer young people took up the habit (which is backed up by available data) and, even better, some young smokers give the habit up, we will have a healthier, more productive Maine population.

Those healthier and more productive individuals will be better, longer- term workers, pay more taxes, buy more goods and services, be less of a burden on our health care system and generally add to a more robust Maine economy.

This seems to be a far better outcome than the shorter term effect of higher taxes.

Arthur Cerullo

North Yarmouth 

As members of the Maine Public Health Association, we applaud The Portland Press Herald for its positive editorial regarding the benefits of raising Maine’s cigarette tax.

For a state that recently saw youth smoking rates increase from a low of 14 percent to 18 percent (our first increase since 1997), it is more apparent than ever that we need to implement best-practice policies for addressing youth smoking in Maine.

Increasing the cigarette tax to $1.50 provides a number of benefits, both to the health of Maine people and our economy.

According to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, a $1.50 cigarette excise tax increase will:

Keep 12,800 Maine youth from becoming new smokers;

Help 7,000 existing Maine smokers quit;

Save $290.5 million in future Maine health care costs; and

Raise at least $34.4 million in revenue to protect Maine jobs and support Maine communities.

Maine used to be a leader in helping kids resist tobacco use, but our tobacco tax of $2 is now the second-lowest in New England.

For many young people, higher prices will make the difference between a lifetime of addiction and a life free of tobacco-related disease.

Whenever tobacco taxes go up, youth smoking rates go down — that’s a fact.

Maine also needs to equalize the tax on non-cigarette tobacco products to ensure that Maine’s youth do not turn to lower-priced tobacco products as an alternative.

Currently in Maine, loose tobacco products and “little cigars” are priced far lower than cigarettes. This makes these products an attractive and accessible option to young people who have limited financial resources but the desire to look cool.

A $1.50 increase in the tobacco tax will help Maine raise much needed revenue and reclaim its position as a leader in preventing youth tobacco use.

Toby Simon, Old Orchard Beach

Anne Tricomi, Gray

Joan Ingram, South Portland 

Tobacco use in Maine has been decreasing steadily over the past few years after the state implemented its highest tobacco tax increase to date.

In 2009, the Fund for a Healthy Maine was established with money provided through the Master Settlement Agreement, which helped to support the state’s tobacco prevention and treatment program.

This program, in combination with the 37 cent tax increase in 1997 and $1 tax increase in 2005, helped make Maine a national leader in the effort to protect kids from tobacco.

For the first time in more than a decade, Maine’s high school smoking rate is increasing.

More than 18 percent of Maine teens report using tobacco — an increase of 28 percent from prior years prior – prompting concerns that Maine’s $2 cigarette excise tax may no longer be adequate for deterring youth from smoking.

Maine is now ranked fifth lowest in New England, and 11th nationally, for its tax on cigarettes.

Tobacco taxation is first and foremost a strategy to improve the health and welfare of our citizens.

While revenue is to be gained, the public health benefits of reducing health care costs, stopping youth smoking and saving lives motivate the American Heart Association and its partners to support taxing cigarettes and other tobacco products.

Proposals to reduce or eliminate strategies for preventing youth tobacco use are not only regressive but also irresponsible.

In an effort to make Maine the healthiest state in the nation, it is advantageous to increase rather than decrease tobacco taxes to fund effective programs for reducing youth tobacco consumption.

Elizabeth McGlinn, American Heart Association Board of Directors

Portland 

I am hoping our legislators will support the rise in cigarette tax as proposed. Maine has the highest rate of asthma in New England at 10 percent.

I am an asthma educator at Maine Medical Center. There is evidence that concludes a connection to secondhand smoke and developing asthma. If a mom smokes while the child is in her uterus and/or post delivery, there is a greater percent of those kids who develop asthma.

The links are confirmed. There is a strong connection to developing asthma later in life if you have been exposed to secondhand smoke and or if you are a smoker.

There is a direct relationship to developing asthma, asthma exacerbations and increased health care costs from those who use tobacco products.

There is also data to support the fact that when we increase the tax on tobacco products, there is an increase in “quitters.”

A smoker is not a bad person, he is a person who has a bad habit. Nicotine is a drug, and an extremely addictive one.

I have worked in health care as a respiratory therapist for 31 years, and I have never met a smoker who didn’t want to quit.

Quitting is hard. There are motivators: education, tobacco treatment options — and expense.

Rhonda Vosmus

Portland