Va. needs to follow Md.'s smoke signals on tobacco control

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Oct. 10 editorial "The smoking divide" made the steep toll of a sluggish approach to tobacco control in Virginia painfully clear, and it illuminated the missed opportunities to improve our residents' health had we only followed the more responsible path that Maryland did.

There are clear steps we can take to put health over tobacco profits. We can raise the cigarette tax to create disincentives to purchase, and the data clearly demonstrate that such a tax has that effect. We can put a loophole-free, smoke-free law in place that protects all workers, not just those lucky enough to work in particular establishments. And we can adequately fund tobacco-cessation programs so that those who are ready to quit have access to resources that help them do so.

The compelling evidence from our neighboring state should be an embarrassment to Virginia legislators. Maryland's efforts to protect its residents from the harmful effects of tobacco use have paid off in a big way. It is high time Virginia started trying to catch up.

Lisa W. Harter, Alexandria

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