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.


News Veteran Sam Donaldson Addresses 250 at Fundraiser for ACS CAN in Omaha

SamDonaldsonSmall.jpgABC News veteran Sam Donaldson headlined the Star of Hope Breakfast, an American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network fundraiser, at the LaVista Conference Center this morning. Donaldson was diagnosed with melanoma cancer in 1995 and has been an avid supporter of cancer research. The event was a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN), a nonprofit, nonpartisan sister advocacy organization of the American Cancer Society, which is dedicated to eliminating cancer as a major health problem.  ACS CAN works to encourage lawmakers, candidates and government officials to support laws and policies that will make cancer a top national priority.


“When you join the cancer club, you don’t volunteer or fill out an application. You’re drafted,” Donaldson said in a radio interview before the event. “I want to do my part to help and what I can do is help raise money for cancer research. Cancer is a nonpartisan disease. This is something we can all get behind, Democrat or Republican.”


SamDonaldsonSmall2.jpgRob McCartney and Brandi Petersen, co-anchors for KETV in Omaha were the emcees for this morning’s event.  American Cancer Society Board of Directors President Charlotte Burke of Lincoln made remarks followed by Omaha Mayor Jim Suttle’s presentation of the key to the city for Mr. Donaldson.  Following his remarks of 20 minutes, Donaldson fielded a few questions from the audience and received gifts from the City of LaVista as well as the Star of Hope Award from the American Cancer Society.  In all, more than 250 attended this morning’s event.

Nebraska Government Relations Team Receives National Award

(Washington, DC) – American Cancer Society Grassroots Manager Dustin Perchal and Legislative Government Relations Director David Holmquist were recently recognized as “Government Relations Team of the Year” at a ceremony in Washington DC.

Smith_Holmquist_Perchal_Seffrin_WEB.jpgOn September 21, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) bestowed the award on Perchal and Holmquist for their ability to produce outstanding results as a team.

“It was a tremendous surprise and the greatest honor,” said Perchal. “We feel blessed that, out of all the state legislative staff teams, we were selected to receive this award.”

“This is an award that represents a tremendous amount of hard work and collaboration,” said Kelly Headrick, chief of government relations for the High Plains Division of the American Cancer Society. “Dustin Perchal and David Holmquist rolled up their sleeves and fought for important cancer control initiatives in Nebraska.”

Last year, Perchal and Holmquist helped pass a comprehensive statewide smoke-free law in Nebraska, which they successfully defended against efforts to weaken this year. The law became effective this past June. Also this year, despite the bad economy, Perchal and Holmquist successfully staffed efforts to fund breast and cervical cancer screening, colon cancer screening, and tobacco prevention and cessation. In the past few months, the two have worked hard on health care reform and were key to the passage of a bill that authorized the Food and Drug Administration to regulate tobacco. Perchal and Holmquist have ensured that Nebraska’s advocacy volunteers are among the most active at the state and federal levels. Together, they have excelled at grassroots organization and at fundraising for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network.

The American Cancer Society’s High Plains Division is comprised of staff and volunteers throughout Missouri, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, and Hawaii who are dedicated to saving lives and creating more birthdays by helping people stay well and get well, by finding cures, and by fighting back against cancer. For more information, visit

ACS CAN is the nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy affiliate organization of the American Cancer Society, dedicated to eliminating cancer as a major health problem. ACS CAN works to encourage lawmakers, candidates and government officials to support laws and policies that will make cancer a top national priority. ACS CAN gives ordinary people extraordinary power to fight cancer. For more information, visit