Nebraskans Meet with Lawmakers to Encourage Support for Cigarette Tax Increase

Over 100 volunteers and advocates from all over the state gathered together at the Nebraska State Capitol today in support of increasing taxes on tobacco products. Representatives from diverse groups such as the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association, the American Lung Association, the Nebraska Medical Association, the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, AARP, and numerous others gathered for a breakfast at the Cornhusker Hotel before moving on to the Capitol to meet with their respective Senators.

“This bill (LB 436) is going to save so many lives,” commented Marilyn Wise, an American Cancer Society volunteer from Fremont.  “A raise in this tax may make people stop and think ‘Do I really want to spend the money on something that’s not good for me’.  That’s the message I want to get across to my senator.”

In Nebraska, 2,200 kids under 18 become new daily smokers each year while the same amount of adults die prematurely each year in Nebraska from smoking.  In addition, tobacco use costs Nebraska $537 million in health care bills each year.  Higher cigarette taxes are one of the most effective ways to reduce smoking among both youth and adults and new revenue created by the increase would go to fund health programs including tobacco prevention and cessation in addition to helping with the state budget deficit.

“In addition to raising over one hundred million new dollars annually, the tobacco tax increase called for in LB 436 will save thousands of lives by helping smokers quit and keeping our young people from starting an addiction to nicotine,” commented David Holmquist, Director of State Legislative Government Relations for the American Cancer Society.  “In addition to saving lives and reducing suffering from tobacco use, funding from the bill will help medical providers continue seeing patients who may be most in need of their services.”

Groups such as the American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, and the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids support higher tobacco taxes because it is a proven solution to improve public health.  Research has shown that every state that has significantly increased its cigarette tax has enjoyed substantial increases in revenue, even while reducing smoking.  In a recent poll, 73 percent of Nebraska voters surveyed support raising the tobacco tax by $1.35 per pack.


American Cancer Society Recognizes Volunteers from the Nebraska Region

In a reception featuring nearly 100 volunteers from all corners of Nebraska, the American Cancer Society recognized its volunteer leadership in the second-annual ACS Volunteer Recognition Celebration at the Cornhusker Marriott on Sunday.

Among the award winners was the American Cancer Society’s 2010 Volunteer of the Year, Karrie Otoupal of York.  As Oncology Director at York General Hospital, Karrie has assisted women by providing them with wigs, turbans, breast prosthesis, bras and other items free of charge in an appearance center that she helped to implement in York.  She works with the local Look Good…Feel Better program and makes sure patients have the information they need by distributing the American Cancer Society’s Personal Health Manager to those who are newly diagnosed.  She facilitates the I Can Cope program, A Time to Heal program, a breast cancer support group and cancer support group.  She helps to recruit Reach to Recovery volunteers, promotes referrals to that program and was instrumental in the development of Road to Recovery in her community.

Otoupal has been the Chair of the York County Relay For Life for five years and recruits local volunteers for the ACS Cancer Action Network and other ACS programs as well.  She has attended the High Plains Division Relay Summit in Dallas and brings back what she has learned and shares her leadership skills by facilitating at the Nebraska Relay Summit.

Along with the Volunteer of the Year Award, the Society recognized several companies, media outlets and individuals for their part in the fight against cancer.  Among those honored were Andrea Wells of Omaha who received the Development Partner of the Year award, Kristi Perrotto of Lincoln who received the Mission Delivery Partner of the Year award, the Norfolk Daily News which was named Media Partner of the Year, Bob Scriven of Kearney who was honored with the Service to Advocacy Award and Jackie Whelan of Omaha who earned Youth Volunteer of the Year honors.

The afternoon event tied in a research theme to display the American Cancer Society’s role in finding cures over the past 40 years and into the future.  The Society’s 2010 accomplishments were shared by Charlotte Burke of Lincoln, who is serving as the chair of the ACS High Plains Board of Directors and keynote addresses were delivered by Amy Geschwender of Lincoln who is a cancer survivor and a stakeholder for the American Cancer Society’s research program, as well as by Dr. Greg Oakley of Lincoln who is conducting ACS funded research for the University of Nebraska Medical Center at the College of Dentistry in Lincoln.  Southeast Nebraska Cancer Center was a presenting sponsor for this event.

Awards Presented:

Volunteer of the Year – Karrie Otoupal (York)

Youth Volunteer of the Year – Jackie Whelan (Omaha)

Community Development Partner of the Year – Andrea Wells (Omaha – Pictured Below with Joy King – Regional Vice President of the American Cancer Society)

Mission Delivery Partner of the Year – Kristi Perrotto (Lincoln – Pictured Below with Joy King – Regional Vice President of the American Cancer Society)

Media Partner of the Year – Norfolk Daily News (Norfolk)

Service to Advocacy Award – Bob Scriven (Kearney – Pictured Below with Joy King – Regional Vice President of the American Cancer Society)

Spirit of Hope – for in-kind donations from media – Broadcast House (Lincoln), Clear Channel Communications (Omaha), KOLN/KGIN-TV (Lincoln), Lincoln Journal Star (Lincoln), Norfolk Daily News (Norfolk), NRG Media (Kearney), NTV (Axtell), Three Eagles Communications (Columbus), Time Warner Cable (Lincoln), WJAG/KEXL-Radio (Norfolk)
Society Awards – for company donations of more than $10,000 – Alegent Health, American Family Insurance, The Gardner Foundation, Hockenbergs, Nebraska Cancer Specialists, Runza Restaurants, St. Elizabeth Regional Medical Center.
Visionaries Awards – for company donations of more than $25,000 – Beckton Dickenson, The Lincoln Stars Hockey Team, Southeast Nebraska Cancer Center.
Sunrise Award for the Look Good…Feel Better program – Marie Nordboe (Fremont)

ACS CAN Hosts Plant It Pink Kickoff in Lincoln

2010 Relay For Life 020_Small.jpgOn June 23rd the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) began a new battle to end breast cancer through a campaign called Plant It Pink.  A kickoff event was held at Finke Gardens and Nursery in Lincoln at 10:30 this morning featuring four speakers who talked about the importance of breast cancer awareness and impact that ACS CAN has for those battling the disease. 


Through the Plant It Pink campaign, local volunteers hope to distribute Pink Impression tulip bulbs all around Nebraska during Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October to honor those battling the disease by selling memberships to ACS CAN.  In exchange for signing up at the $20 level, people will receive a box of 10 tulips that can be picked up and planted in the fall. 


“I can tell you after working with the American Cancer Society and many of its grassroots volunteers and suporters in terms of securing an increase in appropriation for the Every Woman Matters Program, we all know in every community all across the State of Nebraska there are so many of our friends and neighbors who have been touched by this disease and who have battled valiantly,” commented State Senator Danielle Conrad of Lincoln.  “Not only does the American Cance rsociety do great work in terms of public health and of increasing community awareness about the importance of early detection and treatment but they also have such a critical advocacy role when it comes to helping policy makers and people in the halls of the Nebraska Legislature or in the halls of Congress have an understanding about how we can make, regardless of budget situations, strategic investments that are going to save us money in the long run and also improve the quality of life for countless friends and neighbors that are affected.”


2010 Relay For Life 022_Small.jpgThe Plant It Pi
nk campaign supports ACS CAN, the non-profit, non-partisan advocacy affiliate of the American Cancer Society.  ACS CAN works to promote state and federal initiatives such as the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program, which helps deliver lifesaving cancer tests to those who cannot afford them.


Running June 23 until July 23, people who pay $20 for an ACS CAN membership will receive 10 Darwin hybrid tulips imported from Holland.  The bulbs will be available for pick-up and planting in early October.


Senator Conrad encouraged those in attendance to get involved.  “So go out and Plant It Pink this summer.  Talk to your representatives in Congress and at the State level about the importance of this work and don’t forget to give a special hug to all of those friends and neighbors and survivors that we have in our midst and cherish them and honor their sacrifice and their struggle by getting involved in this work.”


Also speaking at today’s event were LuAnn Finke, owner of Finke Gardens and Nursery, sponsor of the 2010 Plant It Pink campaign, Mary Foerster, breast cancer survivor and ACS volunteer and David Holmquist, ACS Director of Legislative Government Relations.


To make a donation to ACS CAN and receive your Plant It Pink impression tulips, visit or contact Dave Holmquist at 402-393-5801.  The bulbs will be available for pick-up at Finke Gardens and Nursery on Oct. 12.


Contributions or gifts to ACS CAN are not tax deductible. 


Lower photo (L to R): David Holmquist, Senator Danielle Conrad, Rich Finke, LuAnn Finke, Gina Sherwood Klein – B107.3, Mary Foerster, Joe Skare – B107.3