Guam trying to increase the tax on tobacco to save lives..

June 8, 2009 - Guam, a territory of the United States, had the highest overall prevalence of smoking, at 31.1%. of any U.S. state or territory; United States Male 38.3% and Female 23.1% - Guam: Smoking Rates for Adults by Sex, 2007. Guam..

Guam’s medical community is making a proactive approach to raise taxes for distributors of cigarettes. As the Guam medical community takes on this quarter-of-a-billion-dollar tobacco industry, they must be prepared to face the full arsenal of political and financial resources that "big and rich tobacco on Guam" will use to stop any increase in the price of cigarettes – even if it means saving the lives of our people.

A member of the Guam Medical Society will hand carry a resolution to the American Medical Association to ask for their endorsement.

Excerpts from the resolution: Whereas Guam has the highest tobacco use per capita of any US state or territory; and Whereas Guam has a corresponding highest cancer and cardiovascular rate attributed to tobacco use; and Whereas it is hoped that an increased tax would move to correct the health problem wrought by tobacco products and secondarily bring necessary increase in revenue to Government of Guam to address the health problems associated with tobacco use; therefore be it RESOLVED, that our American Medical Association endorse the Guam Medical Society (GMS) efforts to have local legislation to sharply increase the Guam tobacco tax, which is the lowest in United States of America, in order to decrease the consumption of industrialized tobacco products.

This resolution will signify the beginning of a political fight that will separate those who care about our people and those who care only about the money to be made in the big business of tobacco.

For one simple reason…increasing the cost of cigarettes saves lives. It reduces the number of smokers. It reduces the number of kids who start smoking. It reduces the number of smoking-related health illnesses. That means healthier people, less cancer and other smoking-related diseases, and fewer kids taking up this life-taking habit.

Studies worldwide have shown that a 10% increase in the price of cigarettes results in a 4% decrease in the number of adults who smoke. However, in states like New York, where the combined federal, state and local taxes on cigarettes total $4.64 per pack (about 58% of an average $8 cash register price), cigarette sales have dropped by 20%.

The challenge? Raising the price of cigarettes and reducing the number of smokers takes money away from the established and powerful tobacco wholesalers who, in the past, have successfully flexed their political muscle to stave off all but nominal increases to the tobacco tax.

But it’s not just the doctors who are fighting to reduce smoking on Guam. In a story covered by Calvo-owned KUAM, Coordinator for the Tobacco-Free Program for Public Health Gil Sugitan said: “With the highest adult tobacco use rate on Guam, we wanted to bring our partners such as the Cancer Information Services of the Pacific, health partners -- Mental Health, Public Health, the American Cancer Society and the PEACE Project -- to get together to train individuals from the health community, community based organizations and other entities that we can work with people who are ready to quit using tobacco."

Over the next few weeks, GuamNewsFactor will follow the development of this campaign to save lives. We’ll explore the successes of states where increased tobacco costs have reduced the incidence of smoking. We’ll explore the lucrative business of tobacco wholesale. We’ll analyze the political alliances that will support and oppose this initiative as well as the media conflicts that will shape this ongoing debate. And we will hold elected officials accountable to you, the people of Guam, on their commitment to end smoking on our island and save the lives of our people.

References: Guam Cigarette Companies Profit By Hundreds Of Millions, written by Guam News Factor Staff Writer, 6/5/2009; Taking On Guam's 'Big Tobacco' Wholesalers, written by Guam News Factor Staff Writer, 6/5/2009; Guam Medical Society President Says We Need To Raise Cigarette Taxes To Save Lives, written by Guam News Factor Staff Writer, 6/5/2009.