South Kitsap Reporter Chris Henry here:
I noticed a nicotine connection between two pieces of legislation, one proposed, one signed into law today.
President Barack Obama signed the State Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization, calling it a “down-payment” on health care reform. The program, which provides health care to millions of low income children, was set to expire March 31. The new $32.8 billion package expands the program to include 4.1 million more children over four and a half years.
According to the press release we received, “Funding will come from an increase in the federal tobacco tax, which is expected to generate $31.3 billion in the next four years.”
On a related note, 160 volunteers with the American Cancer Society and American Heart Association, along with cancer survivors and family members visited Olympia today to advocate for Senate Bill 5626, which would increase the state cigarette tax by $1 a pack.
Among the group was Tessie Goheen of Bremerton. “We need to find ways to cut smoking and help prevent costly incurable disease without harming every day taxpayers,” said Tessie, a 20-year old who is currently undergoing treatment for breast cancer. “All of us are feeling the pinch of the bad economy, and this is all the more reason why we need to get creative about solving problems.”
Tessie, whose family has a rare genetic predisposition to cancer, has worked to start a cancer center in Kitsap County. She and other supporters of the bill hope to see the state avoid impending cuts to smoking prevention and cessation programs through the relatively “steady revenue stream” that would be provided by the tax.
I understand the concept of a “sin tax” is at once to discourage a detrimental behavior and to see some good come out of the inability or unwillingness of many to let it go. It’s the “stick” half of the carrot-and- combined with the lemonade out of lemons thing.
As for the effectiveness of the stick, I’m sure it’s been suggested elsewhere that, when it comes to addiction, price points don’t hold a lot of sway. I’m thinking if you want to apply the stick where it counts, let’s tax the tobacco companies for the privilege of adding chemicals to cigarettes that increase the addictiveness of their products.
I think everyone can agree that health care for children, smoking prevention and smoking cessation are noble goals. But does anyone else find it just a little ironic that the funding, as proposed in both pieces of legislation, absolutely relies on a certain percentage of the population continuing to smoke?
If you’re a smoker, how much would a pack of cigarettes have to cost to get you to quit?