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It has been 12 long years since the State of Montana raised taxes on cigarettes and it’s high time we did so again. A Montana legislative proposal gives us the perfect vehicle.

It’s no mystery what happens following a significant cigarette tax increase: Fewer kids start smoking, more adults quit, and additional hard-to-come-by revenues are generated to fund important health and tobacco prevention programs.

There is one important caveat. Tax increases must be big enough to make a difference. Research shows that only by making tobacco significantly more expensive will we see significant reductions in use in the number of tobacco-related deaths.

Senator Caferro’s proposal, the SAVE Act, would raise Montana’s cigarette tax by $1.50 a pack and impose additional taxes on smokeless tobacco and e-cigarettes. The proposal would generate over $43 million in state revenue and help fund home health care, hospice, and other important health services. The health benefits resulting from the proposal would be substantial. We can prevent 6,800 Montana kids from becoming adult smokers, cause 7,200 adults to quit smoking, and prevent 3,900 smoking-related deaths.

Tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable death and disease in Montana. Yet Montana’s current cigarette tax earned the state a D grade in the American Lung Association’s most recent State of Tobacco Control report. We can and should do better.

Those state legislators who value human life will do the right thing and vote YES on the SAVE Act. We must support the health of Montana kids and families.

John Coefield of Helena is a board member for the American Lung Association of the Mountain Pacific

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