One Strong Voice Can Make a Big Impact

Lynne Peters

My name is Lynne Peters. I am a Relay For Life team captain, chair of the New England Relay For Life Task Force, a member of the National Relay Advisory Team, a caregiver, and most importantly, a cancer survivor.

I know many of you think that you are only one person and that it is hard to truly make a difference and Fight Back effectively, but I want to tell you how easy it is to make a difference in your community.

I recently attended the Relay For Life of Providence College in Rhode Island.  While I was there I heard that one of the co-sponsors of a House bill that would decrease (DECREASE)  the tobacco tax in Rhode Island by one dollar was coming to the event. Representative Reilly did attend, and after I was introduced to him I asked, “Why did you co-sponsor a bill that could cause harm and even death to your constituents?”  I asked him to explain his rationale as I could not think of one good reason for this bill to be introduced into legislation.

Representative Reilly explained that owners of small businesses were losing money to neighboring Connecticut and Massachusetts, where cigarette taxes were lower. I explained to him that by lowering taxes on tobacco more children would be able to afford to buy cigarettes and more adults would continue to smoke because they could still afford to purchase them.  This would cause a strain on the health care system long term due to the increase in cancer diagnoses and other health-related issues.  Rep. Reilly is an intelligent man and I could see that he was thinking about the information we discussed.  I left him with a final request. I asked him to do what was right for the people of Rhode Island. Rhode Island has the second highest cigarette tax in the nation and the third lowest youth smoking rate and the fifth lowest adult smoking rate in the U.S.  That is no coincidence!

After our conversation I was asked to say a couple of words during the opening ceremony. I spoke of my Dad who died of lung cancer because he smoked. Then I  talked about a bill in the Rhode Island House that would decrease the cigarette tax and that we had to let our legislators know this was unacceptable.  I talked about joining ACS CAN, the advocacy arm of the American Cancer Society, and as I walked off the stage Rep. Reilly came up to me and stated, “I am taking my name off of the bill.” 

It is just that easy to make a difference. Just that easy to educate your friends, family, and people you meet along the way. We have rights as citizens of the U.S. and in each of our states, and it is up to us to hold our senators and representatives accountable for their actions.  The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN)  helps make the process so easy for us to communicate with our lawmakers.  Please visit acscan.org to find out what the important cancer-related issues are in your state and learn how to get involved.  Or, email me at relayforlifeteam@hotmail.com and I will be happy to tell you more about how you can help!

[NOTE: Anti-smoking advocates expressed their opposition to the decreases during a House Finance Committee hearing on May 18, 2011, and the bill was held for further study]