With a hard-fought campaign and election behind us, we now have the hard task of engaging with our elected representatives in order to plan for programs that ensure a happier and healthier society here in Maine.

JAMA Internal Medicine published an article Oct. 24 on the proportion of cancer deaths attributable to cigarette smoking in each U.S. state. The numbers for Maine are sobering: It is estimated that 927 cancer deaths, about 29 percent of the total cancer mortality in 2014, were caused by cigarette smoking.

For unclear reasons, there seemed to be a relative excess of deaths among women. Maine ranks 18th among the 50 states in smoking-attributable cancer deaths among women, in comparison to ranking 28th for such deaths among men.

There is much we can do to help reduce these unfortunate and clearly preventable deaths.

We have to ask our legislators to increase access to health care by expanding Medicaid, and to take other steps to increase the number of people in the state with health insurance.

We also have to make sure that Medicaid and other forms of health insurance cover all smoking cessation aids such as nicotine patches. To discourage youth smoking, and to avoid tobacco addiction early in life, tobacco taxes could be increased still further.

We also need to engage the state Center for Disease Control and Prevention to investigate why more women in the state are dying unnecessarily from smoking-related cancers such as lung cancer.

Please make sure your state senator and representative know that preventing smoking-related death is a priority. For more information, contact the American Cancer Society at acscan.org/tobacco.

Peter Bridgman, M.D.

Yarmouth