To the Editor:
The American Heart Association is cheering the actions of the Philadelphia City Council, the Pennsylvania General Assembly and Gov. Tom Corbett following the recent passage of legislation that will allow the City to levy a $2-per-pack cigarette tax aimed at funding the city’s schools and reducing higher than average smoking rates among city residents. This tax increase will amount to the largest single state or municipal cigarette tax hike in U.S. history!
Smoking is the most preventable cause of premature death in the United States. Smokers have a higher risk of developing many chronic disorders, including atherosclerosis — the buildup of fatty substances in the arteries — which can lead to coronary heart disease and stroke. For many years we’ve understood and studied, and collected data that demonstrates conclusively that:
1. Increasing cigarette taxes reduces smoking and discourages youth initiation of smoking
2. An immediate reduction in heart attacks and strokes results from decreasing smoking rates
The results of prevention efforts often take years to be seen in the data, but not with smoking and heart disease. The reduced risks of heart attacks and strokes begin in the minutes after exposure is eliminated.
The American Heart Association was proud to watch the Philadelphia City Council, the Pennsylvania House and Senate, and Corbett enact this tax. While we would have preferred not to have the five-year sunset provision that was included in the law, and will encourage decision makers to remove that provision when the time comes, this is still a tremendous step forward for health in the City of Brotherly Love. We are grateful for the healthier hearts that Philadelphians will enjoy, and we are committed to continuing our decades-long fight to reduce the terrible scourge of tobacco use on our families, friends, neighbors and communities.
Patricia Garcia Sullivan, Ph.D.
Board Chair, American Heart Association,
Great Rivers Affiliate Vice-President,
Quality and Patient Safety University of Pennsylvania Health System
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