Out the cigarettes, celebrate the Great American Smokeout

Out the cigarettes, celebrate the Great American Smokeout

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - Today is the nationwide celebration of the Great American Smokeout.  Of course many advocate not to use tobacco products throughout the year because of health reasons; November 17 marks the 46th annual Great American Smokeout.  The day is sponsored by the American Cancer Society and is a day when tobacco users are encouraged to quit.

The South Carolina Tobacco-Free Collaborative states about 75 percent of adults who smoke started before they turned 18, and the almost 3,000 kids a year become daily smokers in the state.

The collaborative is advocating for several pieces of legislature to help communities and tobacco addictions. According to the South Carolina Tobacco-Free Collaborative's website, the Columbia-based groups thinks South Carolina should "increase the price of cigarettes and other tobacco products, create more smoke-free and tobacco-free environments, raise the legal purchase age to buy tobacco products to 21 and increase funding for tobacco control and prevention programs from the current level of 5% of the CDC-recommended amount."

Executive director Megan Hicks said there is a real possibility to increase the tax on cigarettes.  Right now, South Carolina's cigarette tax is 57 cents per dollar, the 45th highest in the country.  However, the tax on tobacco products is one of the lowest in the country, as 5 percent of the manufacturer's price.

Hicks said there is a good chance the discussion of an increased cigarette tax will come up at the next legislative session.  According to Hilton Head-based newspaper The Island Packet, lawmakers are considering the tax to make up some of the state's failing pension fund.

The cigarette tax was last raised in 2010.  However, at 57 cents, South Carolina's tax is not close to New York's $4.35 cigarette tax.

An increase on other tobacco products is being looked at as well.  Even if you are a non-smoker, second-hand smoke can be deadly.

Troy Matheny is the community manager for Myrtle Beach's local American Cancer Society chapter.  Matheny said he thinks smoking has declined overall, but people forget what smoke can do to others.

"It's been talked about so much it has declined. There's not too many places you can walk in, but they still want to make sure, you know, people do walk outside…and if they have people congregating outside and smoking and you're walking through that you're going to be affected by that," Matheny said.

The Great American Smokeout is partnered with the state's 'tobacco quitline.'  The S.C. Tobacco Quitline offers free one-on-one professional coaching via telephone to South Carolina residents and free nicotine replacement therapy is available to eligible callers, according to the press release.

The quitline number is 1-800-784-8669.

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