Time to snuff out dirty habit

Time to snuff out dirty habit

It takes a ton of it to quit smoking.

That, along with the terribly addictive nature of nicotine, is one of the main reasons you see intelligent, sensible people light up day after day, hour after hour.

South Dakota is going to attempt to battle this addiction.

The Tax Tobacco: Save Lives. Save Money. coalition this week launched what many believe will be a successful campaign to raise the tax on cigarettes by $1 per pack and increase the tax on other tobacco products from 10 percent of the wholesale price to 35 percent of wholesale.

There are no guarantees that such a tax will be as successful as its promoters hope. The best we can do right now is anticipate the tax will actually be an effective deterrent.

Despite other attempts in South Dakota to help people break the habit � such as the Quit Line sponsored by the state Department of Health � smoking remains a big problem in this state.

One out of five, or 117,700 South Dakota adults, light up each day. And many young people who watch this behavior each day see nothing wrong in eventually trying it themselves.

Although there has been recent press citing leveling of smoking rates amongst teens, one of the more staggering statistics to come out of this week's press conference is that South Dakota has the second-highest rate of teen smoking in the country

A figure cited by The Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids said nearly one of every three high school children in South Dakota smoke.

It is estimated that 30 percent, or 14,300 of the state's high school students, smoke. Nearly 25 percent of South Dakota male high school students use smokeless or spit tobacco.

Kids under the age of 18 in the state who become new daily smokers each year total 1,600, and an estimated 45,000 South Dakota children are exposed to secondhand smoke at home.

Packs of cigarettes bought or smoked by kids each year total 3.6 million.

It is estimated that 1,000 adults die in South Dakota annually because of smoking. If current trends continue, 19,300 kids now under 18 and alive in South Dakota will ultimately die prematurely from smoking, and adults, children, and babies who die each year from others' smoking (secondhand smoke and pregnancy smoking) totals 90 to 170.

Smoking kills more people than alcohol, AIDS, car crashes, illegal drugs, murders, and suicides combined � and thousands more die from other tobacco-related causes, such as fires caused by smoking.

No good estimates are currently available, however, for the number of South Dakota citizens who die from these other tobacco-related causes, or for the much larger numbers who suffer from tobacco-related health problems each year without actually dying.

The federal cigarette tax is 39 cents per pack. South Dakota, according to Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, levies a state cigarette tax of 53 cents per pack.

If The Tax Tobacco: Save Lives. Save Money. coalition's wishes come true and that tax is raised by an additional $1, there still would be several states with higher cigarette taxes than us � Alaska and Maine, Michigan and Montana, New Jersey and Rhode Island all recognize that smoking isn't a problem that will quickly and easily go away.

By the way, if you are a smoker and you think no one but you should be concerned about your habit, think again.

Tobacco-related health care costs the taxpaying citizens of South Dakota millions of dollars each year under Medicaid and other state-funded health care programs.

According to the American Cancer Society, estimates show that long-term healthcare savings from the proposed increase in the tobacco tax would be $225 million.

The sooner we help snuff out this dirty habit, the better.

The Vermillion Plain Talk editorials reflect the opinion of Plain Talk editor David Lias. You may contact him at david.lias@plaintalk.net

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