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American Lung Association: Maine Leads New England In Smoking Rate Thanks To Stagnant Tobacco Tax

Pat Wellenbach
Associated Press file
A smoker, who chose not to be identified, takes a break from work in Lewiston, Maine, while sitting in her car on Tuesday, April 15, 2008.

Maine continues to lag the country in curbing the rate of new lung cancer diagnoses.

The American Lung Association estimates that 1,430 Mainers will be diagnosed with lung cancer this year.

Maine continues to have the highest smoking rate in New England, at nearly 18 percent, and the Lung Association’s Lance Boucher says Maine has taken its foot off the gas in recent years when it comes to smoking prevention.

“Tobacco tax increases is the No. 1 way to prompt people to make quit attempts, and Maine has not raised its tax since 2005,” he says.

Since that time, Maine’s tobacco tax has gone from the highest in the Northeast to the second lowest. Boucher says the good news is there are more treatments for lung cancer, and the state’s five-year survival rate is up to 21.8%, which is just lower than the national rate.

Boucher also says smoking isn’t the only cause of lung cancer.

“Radon exposure is a significant risk factor in Maine and across the country. And we would encourage individuals to look at their own environment — test your home for radon. It is a simple and low-cost test. And then the mitigation, if you’re round to have high levels, is also an affordable fix,” he says.

Boucher says early screening can also help catch lung cancer when it’s more treatable. He says low-dose CAT scans are now recommended for people ages 55-80 who are at high risk because of a history of smoking.