Cowan: 'Smoking hurts everyone'

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 1, 2009

By Steve Huffman
Jim Cowan said he remembers that when he was growing up, his mother smoked an occasional cigarette.
He was in about the fifth grade, Cowan said, when he figured a way to convince his mother to kick the habit.
“I told her, ‘Well, Mom, if you like smoking, I guess that means I can start,’ ” Cowan said.
“She quit that day.”
Cowan is now director of Allied Health Services and Healthy Rowan! coordinator for the Rowan County Health Department. He said he’s no more fond today of smoking than he was when he convinced his mother years ago to quit, and said he supports Gov. Bev Perdue’s proposal to increase taxes on cigarettes by $1 a pack.
“Smoking hurts everyone,” Cowan said, “especially the unborn baby.”
He cited statistics from the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, a Washington-based organization, that he said bear out the need for an end to smoking.
“They’re a very credible resource,” Cowan said of Tobacco-Free Kids. “Their statistics are very reliable.”
According to the organization, a $1-per-pack cigarette tax will produce a 17-percent decline in youth smoking, keeping almost 90,000 young people from becoming addicted smokers. The tax, Tobacco-Free Kids reported, will prevent 44,000 North Carolinians from suffering premature, smoking-caused deaths.
It will also, the organization stated, save $2.1 billion in long-term health-care costs related to smoking and generate more than $300 million in revenue to ease the state’s budget crisis.
“Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death in North Carolina, claiming more than 12,000 lives each year and costing the state $2.46 billion annually in health-care bills, including $769 million in Medicaid payments alone,” said Matthew Myers, president of Tobacco-Free Kids.
According to Myers, every 10 percent increase in the price of cigarettes reduces youth smoking by about 7 percent and overall cigarette consumption by about 4 percent.
He said every state that has substantially increased cigarette taxes has enjoyed substantial increases in revenue, all while reducing smoking.
Myers said upping those taxes also saves money by reducing smoking-caused health-care costs.
Not everyone agrees. A spokesman for Reynolds- American in Winston-Salem said the proposed tax increase will do serious harm to the state’s tobacco industry.
“The governor has placed as many as 50,000 tobacco-related jobs in our state at risk with this proposal,” said Tommy Payne of ReynoldsAmerican. “With the state jobless rate at a 25-year historic high, it is irresponsible to place more jobs in jeopardy in North Carolina.”