Smoke-free effort lit at Capitol for a day

I attended Minnesotans for a Smoke-Free Generation Day at the Capitol on Feb. 22 and I want to thank all the lawmakers who met with the nearly 300 health advocates that day.

We shared our opposition to the lowering of taxes on any tobacco. We discussed in particular why it is a bad idea to lower taxes on so-called premium cigars. Keeping the price of tobacco high is one of the best ways to keep young people from starting to smoke. Higher prices also help current smokers quit.

We also talked about raising the tobacco age to 21. Raising the age will help keep people who can legally buy tobacco out of middle school and high school social circles.

We also shared our personal experiences of the damage tobacco does. One woman in our group told us that she has been trying to quit smoking for the last several months after doctors found two lesions in her lung. She has smoked for 45 years. When talking with her lawmaker, she emphasized finding ways to help others avoid ever starting to use tobacco. She is especially concerned about menthol cigarettes and other flavored tobacco products because they are often targeted to vulnerable populations and young people.

Again, thank you to the lawmakers who took the time to discuss these very important issues with us. — Irwin Sylvah, Otsego