SALEM, Ore. -- Cancer patients, survivors and others urged lawmakers Monday to increase taxes on cigarettes and tobacco products in an effort to fight cancer.
The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network held its annual Cancer Action Day at the Capitol to give people a voice with lawmakers and an opportunity to push for policy change.
Advocates pushed for a $2 tobacco tax increase to raise the price of cigarettes and all other tobacco products, including electronic cigarettes. The increase was included in Governor Kate Brown's 2019 budget to help fund the state's Medicaid program.
The American Cancer Society said if the tax went up by $2 per pack, more than 31,300 smokers would quit and more than 19,000 kids under the age of 18 wouldn't start. It would also decrease youth smoking rates by nearly 21 percent.
Oakdale resident Mike Richards supports the increase.
"I think it's a good idea, you know it might even back people off from a lot of these products," Richards said. "With also a lot of these products being bought, it will bring a lot of money back into the state."
The group said tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death and smoking causes nearly 28 percent of cancer deaths in Oregon. They pointed out that overall 13,700 lives would be saved from a premature death.
Oregon hasn't raised its tobacco tax significantly since 2002. Right now, it's $1.33 a pack. That's 32nd in the nation.
The group also urged lawmakers to increase funding for the state's Breast and Cervical Cancer Screening Program to provide life-saving cancer screenings for low-income and uninsured women and improve clarity around prescription drug costs, so cancer patients can afford their treatments.