Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Senate passes $1.25 and restores funding!

The Wisconsin State Senate took a major step forward today to help dramatically reduce Wisconsin’s tobacco burden, save taxpayers money and help hold the line on tobacco-related health care costs! In their version of the budget, they not only passed the $1.25 tobacco tax increase, but also passed an amendment to restore the tobacco control program funding back to $30 million. The Joint Finance Committee had cut $10 million of the program funds, but thanks to the Senate's 18-15 vote, the program funding is fully restored!

Special thanks to all Senators who voted in favor of this initiative:

Senator Breske
Senator Carpenter
Senator Coggs
Senator Decker
Senator Erpenbach
Senator Hansen
Senator Jauch
Senator Kreitlow
Senator Lassa
Senator Lehman
Senator Miller
Senator Plale
Senator Risser
Senator Robson
Senator Sullivan
Senator Taylor
Senator Vinehout
Senator Wirch

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Senate back in session...

Right now the discussion is focused around the Democrats' Healthy Wisconsin Plan. More to come when our Senators take up the cigarette tax and program funding. Remember, you can watch the live stream on Wisconsin Eye!

Strong Congressional Support for FDA Authority over Tobacco Products!

In March 2000, the Supreme Court held that under current law, the FDA did not have the authority to regulate tobacco products. Therefore, it would be up to Congress to change the existing law and grant the FDA the authority to regulate the manufacture, distribution and sale of tobacco products --- and that time has come.

Last week Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar became the 51st Senator to sign on to Senate Bill 625 that would grant the FDA regulatory power over tobacco products. With a majority of Senators on board, and the House having 181 sponsors for their identical bill H.R. 1108, it is quite apparent the time has come; Congress has the votes to pass this legislation now and make a historic impact on our nation's health.

While virtually every other consumer product is regulated, tobacco products continue to be exempt from the most basic oversight. Tobacco companies are not required to test additives for safety, prevent misleading or inaccurate health claims, inform consumers what is in their products, or take any other action to make their products less harmful or addictive.

By granting the FDA oversight to the production of tobacco, we would be better able to counter the nation's number one preventable cause of death. If granted authority, the FDA could crackdown on illegal tobacco sales to children. Also, it could place restrictions on advertising and marketing that target children.

With tobacco use killing more than 400,000 Americans and costing the nation more than $96 billion in health care bills each year, it is obvious this legislation is long over-due!

Connecticut passes cigarette tax increase!

The state of Connecticut passed a 49 cent cigarette tax increase, resulting in a $2.00 tax per pack. We applaud the leadership in Connecticut in passing a policy that not only deters kids from smoking, but also raises revenue to fund education and cessation programs.

Connecticut is the eighth state to increase its cigarette tax to $2.00 or more per pack. If the Wisconsin State Legislature does the right thing today and keeps Governor Doyle's proposed $1.25 tax increase in the state budget, Wisconsin would have a total tax of $2.02 per pack and would have the honor of being the ninth state to have a tax of $2.00 or more.

Will the Senate Vote to prevent youth from starting to smoke?

The Wisconsin Senate is meeting at 10:00 am today to vote on the state budget. Will the Senate vote for the health of our state? Increasing Wisconsin’s excise tax by $1.25 per pack would significantly reduce the number of children who become addicted to tobacco, save over a billion dollars in health care costs, and provide hundreds of millions of dollars per year in additional state revenues.

Click here to watch live coverage on Wisconsin Eye

Friday, June 15, 2007

8 smoke-free states in 8 months

The Oregon House passed a smoke-free bill today that will prohibit smoking in all restaurants and bars. That gives them the honor of #22 and leaves Wisconsin with only three spots left to make it in the first 25 states to go smoke-free.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The Pink Version of Joe Camel

ABC News ran a segment last week on R.J. Reynolds' new cigarettes and their ads, which utilize bright pink colors and enticing words such as "light" and "luscious." These new cigarettes, coined "Camel No. 9" are quite obviously targeting young teenage girls. Although the Joe Camel advertising campaign has ended, and cigarette ads are also banned from TV and billboards, the ads for this new cigarette, are in many popular young women's magazines (Vogue and Cosmopolitan to name two big ones), because print advertising technically remains legal, as long as it does not "target" minors.

However, with the fancy ads, carefully selected adjectives and the sleek, sophisticated box in which Camel No. 9's are sold, it is not a far-fetched idea to say these cigarettes are blatently aimed at young girls. According to ABC News, 42 Congressional members sent a letter to editors of eleven major magazines, urging them to stop running Camel No. 9's ads.

R.J. Reynolds claims they are targeting adult women smokers; similar to how Joe Camel -- a cartoon character, mind you -- was aimed solely at adults, huh? Check out the story, and be sure to leave your comments on this latest ploy from Big Tobacco.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Rep. Pocan gets it

Rep. Mark Pocan deserves a big thank you. He was the only democrat to do the right thing and vote against Sen. Decker's motion to cut one third of the proposed funding from the tobacco control program.

The motion, which passed with the rest of the democrats and Reps. Suder and Vos voting yes, would put Wisconsin at slightly less than two thirds of the CDC recommended minimum for tobacco control.

A best practice tobacco control program is a big picture program. It includes prevention programs to keep young people from starting to smoke, but it also provides cessation services like WI's Tobacco Quitline and the First Breath Program (for pregnant women) to help smokers quit. A well funded tobacco control program also includes a component to identify disparities related to tobacco use and its effects among different population groups, whether divided among race, gender, or income lines. You can read more about what the CDC recommends here.

If your legislator voted for these cuts, please ask him or her which third of the tobacco control program he or she is willing to cut - prevention, cessation, population-specific counter marketing...?

Every year Big Tobacco spends $247 million marketing its deadly products in Wisconsin. We're asking for $30 million to fight it. But on a 9-7 vote we were given just 8% of what Big Tobacco spends here each year to try to protect our kids and improve the health of all Wisconsinites.

Tobacco Control Program Proposed Funding Cut

On a 9-7 vote, the proposed $30 million for the state's Tobacco Control Program was cut to $20 million. I'll post the votes when I have them.

This means we now have to work to get the proposed funding restored in the Senate.

Just tuning in...

I just tuned in on WisEye to see where the JFC is at with their deliberations. I checked the WisPolitics Budget Blog to get brought up to speed.

The latest news: Rep. Rhoades made a motion to delete all three tobacco prevention and control provisions from the budget. That's right, no $1.25 increase in the cigarette tax and no funding or endowment for the state's tobacco control program.

Here's what I don't get - why, if the committee members are looking for ways to reduce healthcare costs, are they debating deleting provisions from the proposed budget that would:

  • decrease the number of current WI smokers by at least 42,500
  • prevent 84,000 WI kids alive today from becoming daily smokers (who otherwise would have)
  • save Wisconsin $40 million in the next 5 years from fewer smoking-affected pregnancies and births and heart attacks and strokes
  • save Wisconsin over $1.8 billion in longterm savings from youth and adult smoking declines
It just doesn't make sense.

JFC votes on tobacco control program, cigarette tax, and protecting the endowment today

You can watch the Joint Finance Committee debating funding the tobacco control program, raising the cigarette tax by $1.25, and protecting the tobacco settlement money in an endowment to pay for prevention and quit smoking programs today on WisEye.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

The Twentysomething Paradox

As a 22 year old recent college grad, I hear the same line over and over from my peers: "I only smoke when I drink." This phrase is so common, Joe Nichols even wrote a country song with this very line as its title (don't ask me how I know that). I guess one logical question would be, "well, how often do you drink?" but even that question aside, what is the deal with people my age thinking that smoking solely on the weekends isn't harmful?

This said, I found an article on the web today about this very issue. The author, Emily Meehan, titled her article "The Twentysomething Paradox," claiming many young adults smoke on a regular basis (or whenever they are out drinking or partying), yet consider themselves non-smokers.

Unfortunately, what these folks don't realize is that even infrequent smoking, whether it be heavily just on the weekends or one cigarette per day, still increases one's risk for heart or lung disease. I suggest you click on the link and read the article for more facts and statistics on the harmful effects of intermittent smoking.

The good news is smoke-free air laws can reduce this odd paradox. In fact, I can think of numerous friends of mine that have quit smoking altogether since Madison enacted its 100% smoke-free air law. One, with bars being smoke-free, my friends aren't surrounded by smoke. Therefore they don't crave a cigarette, nor do they feel it would be socially desirable to smoke in general. Also, many do not think its worth having that casual cigarette if it means going outside and leaving the good times inside (especially when going outside in January means battling sub-zero temperatures!).

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Watch the Smoke-free Hearing on the Web!

Although Wisconsin Eye did not do a live feed the day of the hearing, they have archived their coverage and it is now available on their website. Once at their site, click on the day of the hearing (5/31/07) and you can watch the action right at your own computer! Check it out!!

Hearing Results--Kicking butt and taking names

Last week's Breathe Free Wisconsin Hearing made a powerful statement for the rights of all Wisconsinites to breathe clean air. Of the 404 people in attendance at the hearing there were 290 clean air supporters, 15 people there for information, and only 99 people for the opposition. This represents nearly 3 to 1 support of the bill.

Thank you to everyone who came to the hearing and made your voice heard.
Let's continue to fight for clean air for ALL of Wisconsin.

Live Free or Die State Goes Smoke-free

21 States are Smoke-free...What is Wisconsin Waiting for?
On Thursday, May 31 the New Hampshire Assembly voted 224-117 to pass a Smoke-free air bill that guarantees the right for all individuals, including restaurant and tavern workers, to breathe clean air. The bill has also passed in their Senate and N.H. Gov. John Lynch has said he will sign it. The smoke-free law will take effect 90 days later. To read more click here. If New Hampshire can pass a smoke-free air bill isn't it time for Wisconsin?

The Battle for Smoke-free Air Takes to the Radio

Click on the radio to listen to restaurant owner Tom Saxe talk about his battle with secondhand smoke-induced throat cancer and everyone's right to breathe clean air in our new radio ad. It's Time to Breathe Free Wisconsin!!!

Friday, June 1, 2007

Best Quote Award

Congratulations to the American Heart Association's Maureen Cassidy for having the best quote of the hearing. After commenting on the recent 100% smoke-free air laws passed in both Minnesota and Illinois, and with Michigan's bill already in committee this June, she declared now is the time, because:

"We don't want to see Wisconsin become the ashtray of the Midwest."

And now a word from the opposition...

Members of the opposition, mainly the Tavern League of Wisconsin, had the same argument over and over; they have a choice to make decisions about their businesses, and the passing of SB150 would be detrimental to their businesses.

However, smoke-free proponents effectively testified against these claims. In terms of choice, yes, Americans should have the choice to partake in certain practices if they wish; however, what if the consequences of your choices reach a point at which they are affecting others?

Sandy Anderson, President of SSM Health Care addressed this very point in her testimony, quoting Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr: "The right to swing my fist ends where the other man's nose begins." Similarly, one's right to smoke ends at the moment it affects another's right to breathe free.

Also, if we let the Tavern League have their "choice," that would mean we would be exempting bars and taverns from SB150...and, as one bar/restaurant owner stated, "what do you tell the bar workers whose workplaces are exempted? That their health is of less importance?"

Finally, Tim Hanna, mayor of Appleton, explained in his testimony that Appleton's bars and restaurants are not hurting after Appleton went smoke-free in July 2005; in fact, Appleton is at their maximum level of liquor licenses issued, with 9 businesses on the waiting list. That's right, 9 businesses waiting to do bar business in Appleton, knowing full-well of Appleton's 100% smoke-free air law, which was sustained through three referendums: "the people of Appleton have spoken."

There is no safe level of exposure...

Secretary Hayden, representing the Department of Public Health, as well as Governor Doyle, immediately explained in his testimony that "this is not about parties and politics nor is it about smokers v. non-smokers -- this bill will protect all citizens of Wisconsin. No other single legislative act will have such a profound and widespread effect on public health."

He also stressed the importance of the Surgeon General's June 2006 Report, which concluded there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke. SB150 will make sure no one gets sick at the expense of another's addiction; after SB150 no one will have to risk their health to earn a paycheck or enjoy dining out.

Way to Go Smoke Free!

Maureen, who stayed until the very end of the hearing, sent me the following:

"I don't have a total final count, but I think the tavern and smokers had about 30 speakers and we had the rest - a total of 110 testified! Rock on Smoke Free! And a special thanks to the American Cancer Society!"

Awesome day yesterday; I'm working on polishing up my testimony notes and I'll be updating you shortly!