Dear Mr. Wright, Editor of Helena West Helena World:
The smoking rate in Phillips County is dangerously high. According to County Health Rankings, in 2018, the smoking rate in our county was twenty six percent. This is significantly higher than the state median of 20.6 percent and the national median of 17.3 percent provided by US News.
It is no secret smoking has negative health effects on individuals who indulge in it, such as increasing the risk of lung cancer and nicotine dependency. In addition to this, the smoking rate also lowers Phillips County’s health rankings. To combat the high rate, Phillips County should implement an additional tobacco tax. Previous efforts such as school anti-smoking campaigns and raising the age to buy tobacco products have not been effective solutions.
Every school in our county has made some effort to steer students away from cigarettes and other tobacco products. Unfortunately, this has not helped to lower the smoking rate. In 2016, the age to buy tobacco was raised to twenty one in Helena-West Helena, and the rest of the county followed last year. However, the smoking rate has not shown any significant drop in recent years. Specifically, Phillips County has been ranked the seventy fifth county in health behaviors including smoking for three consecutive years.
Also, in 2016, the smoking rate jumped to twenty seven percent from twenty four percent in the previous year. A county tobacco tax is the best solution because it discourages citizens from starting a bad habit and motivates current smokers to quit. Adding a tobacco tax protects our citizens from smoking-related health issues while also pouring money back into our community.