Your Dec. 12 editorial, “Our View: Life expectancy slips back while inequality grows,” noted that 2015 marks the first decrease in life expectancy since 1993, in part because of the rise in rates for eight of the top 10 leading causes of death.

The fact is, tobacco use remains the single largest preventable cause of death and disease in the United States and is a contributing factor to many of these leading causes of death, including cancer, heart disease and stroke.

Although many factors contributed to predicted tobacco use, socioeconomic status is the strongest, with tobacco use substantially higher among people in lower income brackets than those in higher income ones. Numerous studies have also shown that tobacco companies target disadvantaged communities with point-of-sale marketing. As a result, low-income people smoke more, suffer more, spend more and die more from tobacco use.

The burden of cancer and other tobacco-related diseases touches everyone, but the prevalence of this disease among those in lower income brackets cannot be ignored. Fortunately, enacting legislation that will protect all Mainers from tobacco use will benefit men and women from all demographics.

I urge lawmakers to tackle tobacco use in 2017 by supporting a $1.50 tobacco tax increase – which, research has proven, benefits the low income at a greater rate than any other socioeconomic group – and an increase in the legal age of sale of tobacco to 21, preventing another generation of Mainers from ever picking up this deadly addiction in the first place.

Hilary Schneider

government relations director, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network


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