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(Don’t) Stop Smoking – Others’ Health Depends on It

February 4th, 2009 by Chris Henry

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?

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6 Responses to “(Don’t) Stop Smoking – Others’ Health Depends on It”

  1. Blue Light Says:

    The state’s assertion that increases in cigarette taxes are an effort to get people to quit is as disingenuous as the city of Bremerton’s insistence that red light cameras are for “safety”.

  2. Bob Meadows Says:

    SCHIP’s reliance on tobacco taxes simply combines three motives into one package. First, make a minority of our population pay, leaving the majority to feel warm and fuzzy without having to pay the bill. Second, make tobacco use so expensive that many will quit or never start, and prohibition is achieved a little at a time perhaps without provoking a great deal of smuggling and tax evasion. Third, lure people into reliance on taxpayer-subsidized medical insurance (even those who are now paying for private insurance) so that the country moves farther toward a nationalized health care system.

    As more people perceive that the group enjoying the SCHIP subsidy is getting too good a deal compared to them, they won’t insist that the deal be made less favorable — they will instead insist that they get a share of the same deal. The program will then expand (see motive #3).

    It doesn’t matter whether the tobacco tax turns out not to produce enough revenue in the long term, if enough people insist on getting their share of the subsidy. Some other way will be found to make a minority of the population pay for the medical insurance of the majority. The important thing is to increase the number of people relying on the subsidy. The “Mommy, make him share: he’s got more than me” attitude will continue the movement down the road to a nationalized medical system.

  3. Sharon O'Hara Says:

    I once thought serving caviar was a sign of affluence and good taste. And then I learned the cost of buying caviar fish eggs and figured out how many hours I had to work to pay for it.

    The same with cigarettes… they would be priced out of my willingness to pay for them and it is doubtful I would have begun smoking…especially knowing the health risks.

    I smoked forty years. Life as I knew it changed when I was hospitalized.
    The following two years I learned the hard way what addiction really means. For me, it meant sudden intense overwhelming urges to smoke, a gut wrenching craving.

    Here comes COPD.
    Some COPDers have never smoked.
    Called Alpha, their COPD is genetic.
    Other non smoking COPDers inhaled second hand smoke.

    But for most COPDers and lung cancer patients, smoking is the direct cause.

    COPD is a slow developing disease. Most COPDers appear healthy.
    Many, if not most COPDers go on to develop other diseases along the way. I don’t know why but it seems the immune system becomes damaged.
    Some are painful diseases…and develop into excruciating pain, unrelenting and add to the expense of COPD treatment.
    The post COPD diseases might have been avoided had the patient never picked up a cigarette and smoked it.

    The point of this little story later…
    Sharon O’Hara

  4. Sharon O'Hara Says:

    As far as I’m concerned cigarettes should be taxed out of existence.
    Trouble is the reservations sell to outsiders without the tax they don’t have to pay.

    In my opinion, no one other than tribe members should be allowed to buy tax free products on the reservations. If they sell to non native Americans, then they should pay tax too….or be shut down.

    To use that money for any purpose other than tobacco education, smoking cessation or any non tobacco cause is wrong.

    As Bob says, “The “Mommy, make him share: he’s got more than me” attitude will continue the movement down the road to a nationalized medical system.”

    We do not want nationalized medicine in this country and using tobacco tax to pay for general medical costs makes no sense.

    We must stop people from starting to smoke any way we can. Tax on tobacco products will help pay for innovative promotional to that end….NOT to pay medical costs…to PREVENT future medical costs due to smoking.
    Sharon O’Hara

  5. Jake Metcalf Says:

    Watching my grandfather die of emphysema and cancer was enough to make me want to never start smoking.

  6. Jake Metcalf Says:

    Also I will never ever date another smoker. If I am on a date and some one lights up I am going to get up walk away and throw away their number.

    If you want to smoke. Fine but do it in the privacy of your own home and get ready to take responsibility for your own actions.

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