I was glad to see Gov. LePage’s proposed cuts to the Fund for a Healthy Maine characterized as a “false choice” in your recent coverage (“LePage administration, advocates butt heads on cut to anti-smoking program,” Jan. 27).

Certainly, the funding of primary care doctors is important – but this cannot be done at the expense of proven tobacco prevention and cessation programs. The Fund for a Healthy Maine has proven its effectiveness by reducing cigarette smoking rates among high school students by 67 percent since 1997.

Tobacco use is the nation’s and Maine’s most preventable cause of death, yet nearly half a million people in the U.S. will die from tobacco-related diseases this year. Right here in Maine, an estimated 8,810 people will be diagnosed with cancer in 2015, and 3,300 will die from the disease.

The truth is, many of these cancers can be traced back to tobacco use – and therefore could likely have been prevented. Smokers need help to quit. A targeted program like Fund for a Healthy Maine can do more than a 45-minute doctor visit.

Most tobacco users want to quit and about half try each year, but without help, less than 10 percent succeed. Primary care providers can play a part in helping smokers quit, and the programs funded through the Fund for a Healthy Maine can help support smokers throughout the quitting process.

More importantly, these programs help to ensure Maine’s young never pick up the deadly habit to begin with.

If we lose $20 million of support for the Fund for a Healthy Maine, we lose a powerful tool in the fight against tobacco, and in turn, we are not as strong in our fight against cancer.

Janice Ronan

volunteer, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network