Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Football and secondhand smoke - a must read!

The Wausau Daily Herald has a great editorial in their paper today about smoke-free fans looking for a place to watch the Packers vs. Cowboys game. It's not very long - you can read it here.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

On the Radio - 11:45 a.m. today!

Dr. Mike Fiore of the University of Wisconsin Center for Tobacco Research and Intervention will appear on the Larry Meiller program on Wisconsin Public Radio today from 11:45 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.

You can log on and listen online at Click on one of the Ideas Network players on the right side of that page.

Dr. Fiore will be talking about tobacco dependence use and treatment, particularly timely with a tobacco tax increase going into effect on Jan. 1.

If you want to call in, the numbers are: 800-642-1234 or 263-1890 in Madison.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Legislature should listen and approve smoking ban!

Thanks to Jeff for his guest post!

Dear Editor: When I read that Russ Decker, Wisconsin's new Senate majority leader, said that he hopes to revive the Healthy Wisconsin health care proposal, it made me scratch my head. In an earlier article, he was reluctant to back a statewide smoking ban.

How can anyone be for any health care plan, but not back a statewide smoking ban for Wisconsin? The two go hand in hand. One of the easiest ways to improve the health of people is to implement a complete smoking ban for indoor work areas, including bars and restaurants.

Last year, researchers at the UW Comprehensive Cancer Center released a study surveying 400 bartenders before and after Madison's smoking ban went into effect. Respiratory symptoms such as wheezing, shortness of breath and coughing were cut by 40 percent.

There are economic benefits to smoking bans as well. According to the Madison Alcohol License Review Committee, in the two years after Madison's ban went into effect, the number of liquor licenses increased from 332 in 2005 to 356 in August 2007.

Yes, there were 13 tavern closures, but according to a statement released by the Dane County Division of Public Health last March, lease issues, retirement of owners and law enforcement violations were also factors. In fact, of the 13 taverns, 10 have reopened under new management with new alcohol licenses.

Even the Wisconsin Restaurant Association supports a statewide smoking ban. This would make a level playing field for the entire state, especially since Minnesota and Illinois have passed smoking bans.

It's time for the state Legislature to listen to the two-thirds of our population that favor a complete smoking ban in Wisconsin and pass Senate Bill 150.

Jeff Larson is a resident of Middleton. His Letter to the Editor was published in the Capital Times on November 19, 2007.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

What are you thankful for?

This Thanksgiving, I am thankful that I live in Madison, WI, where I can go out with my friends without worrying about the room being too smoky to breathe! I am thankful that I'm visiting my sister in Minnesota for the holiday, where clean air's on the menu at every bar and restaurant! After Minnesota going smoke-free October 1st and with Illinois going 100% smoke-free in January, it leaves me wondering what's taking our legislature so long? Don't be a turkey- leave a comment and tell me what you're thankful for this year.

Monday, November 19, 2007

NY Heart Attacks Drop 8% Due to Smoke-free Air!

Yet another study has proved smoke-free indoor environments improve the health of non-smokers. This month, the American Journal of Public Health released their findings that hospital admissions for acute myocardial infarction (aka heart attacks) dropped 8% since enactment of a comprehensive 100% smoke-free workplace law that includes restaurants and bars in 2003. This represents health care savings up to $56 million!

The New York study is preceded by several others that conclude comprehensive smoke-free policy helps hearts keep ticking. Scotland saw a 17% reduction in heart attacks after a year of smoke-free workplaces, Pueblo, Colorado's rates dropped 27%, and Helena, Montana's heart attack rates fell a whopping 40% following their 100% smoke-free ordinance!The authors of the New York study explain that the decrease may have been smaller than other studies because many areas of New York already had smoke-free indoor air policies before the state-wide law filled in the gaps. All these studies noticed a drop in non-smokers' heart attacks, while the smokers' numbers remained the same.

I find these studies very interesting because heart problems run in my family. I'm so glad that my sister, who lives in New York, is safer because of that state's comprehensive smoke-free policy. Now IT'S TIME to protect non-smokers all across Wisconsin!

Friday, November 16, 2007

It's Time

Yesterday we celebrated 99,000 lives saved in Wisconsin from the increased cigarette tax and program funding in the budget. The Great American Smoke Out also gave us the opportunity to turn the attention back to the proposed smoke-free air bill.

This beautiful display at the capitol says it all. Thanks for the picture Luke!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Great American Smoke Out

Thanks to Lisa Davidson for this guest post!

Quitting smoking is tough. If you have ever been close to someone who has tried to quit, you know what I am talking about. Today, November 15th, marks the annual American Cancer Society Great American Smoke Out, a day to take a break from smoking and hopefully love the way it feels to be smoke-free. To successfully quit smoking it's important to offer love, support and patience. Breaking free from the grips of tobacco addiction is one of the hardest things to do, but there is help. If you or a loved one is interested in quitting smoking please call the Wisconsin Quitline at 1-800-QUIT-NOW. You can also visit for more information on resources to help you quit smoking.
Take some time today to thank those in your life who have successfully quit smoking. And if you or someone else needs help, please reach out to the Quitline or other resources available through your doctor. Life is beautiful, enjoy every breath!

Lisa Davidson works in Field Government Relations for the Midwest Division of the American Cancer Society.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Self-extinguishing cigs proposal introduced

Today Sen. Robson introduced a bill that would require cigarettes sold in Wisconsin to be self-extinguishing if left unattended. 22 states already have similar legislation, including Minnesota and Illinois. Wispolitics noted that Wisconsin fire chiefs joined Sen. Robson as she made the announcement today (cigarettes are the leading cause of fatal fires in WI).

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

What did you learn at NCTOH 2007?

Many of our readers attended the National Conference on Tobacco or Health in October. We want to open it up to you:

What did you learn at the conference? Let us know by leaving a comment!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Budget Q&A - TPCP

Q: How is Wisconsin's Tobacco Prevention and Control Program (TPCP) funded in this budget?

A: From General Purpose Revenue (GPR), the big pot of money that most programs are funded from. The TPCP is not funded by earmarked money.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

UPDATED: Budget Q&A - earmarking

Q: Where is the money from the cigarette tax going?

*This answer was rewritten on 11/9/07 after it was called to my attention that I had used an old version of the budget as a reference. Thank you Tony!*

A: It's clear as mud. Here's what Governor Doyle's memo to the Senate regarding the signed budget says: "This revenue increase [in the cigarette tax] generates over $400 million in revenue in support of the state's Medicaid program and will ultimately lead to improved public health through reduced tobacco use." (you can read this quote at the very top of pg. 4 of this document)

I went back to the actual budget document and had a harder time making this connection. I'm not exactly trained to read budget documents though. You can view the language regarding the cigarette and other tobacco products tax increases on pgs. 523-524 (starting with Section 2781 and finishing with Section 2840 d). After staring at these two pages for a few minutes, I figured out that "177 mills" apparently means $1.77. So, good luck - you're on your own for this one!

The main thing I took away from this is that the governor has said (in writing) that the tobacco tax revenue will be going toward Medicaid expenses. If any of our readers have additional insight, please share!

Friday, November 2, 2007

Budget Q&A - 50% program funding increase

Q: Are you disappointed that the Tobacco Prevention and Control Program (TPCP) only received a $5 million per year increase?

A: Of course. Wisconsin's TPCP is still incomplete, and valuable elements of the program will continue to go unfunded during this budget biennium. Given the intense disagreements between lawmakers regarding this budget, however, we were lucky to see an increase in program funding at all.

Our work isn't done. Keep your eyes open for a blog post soon about the new recommended funding level for WI's TPCP just released by the CDC.

Budget Q&A - cigars

Q: What about cigars?

A: Unfortunately, cigars were afforded special treatment in the budget. The budget specifies that no cigar can be taxed more than 50¢. Sounds to me like a bunch of cigar-smoking legislators wrote that one for themselves.

What this basically means is that a $10 cigar could be taxed at the same amount as a $28 cigar. (A $10 cigar would be $10.50 with tax and a $28 cigar would be $28.50 with tax.) The 50¢ cap essentially prevents the state from collecting its fair share of taxes on more expensive cigars. As the price of the cigar increases, the percentage-of-price tax collected decreases. Doesn't seem very fair.
Click picture to enlarge.

Budget Q&A - eeewww!

Q: Were there any tobacco-related partial vetoes in the budget?

A: Yes. These guys (see picture) wanted an exemption from being taxed. Eeewww. This stuff is so creepy... I should have done this post on Halloween. Smokeless tobacco products classified as "moist snuff" actually received an exemption from being taxed in the budget that was passed by the legislature. Thankfully, Gov. Doyle used his veto pen to remove this exemption from the budget he signed. By partially vetoing this exemption, no tobacco product will be exempt from being taxed in Wisconsin.

You can read Gov. Doyle's veto message on this item here: Scroll to the bottom of pg. 40 of the .pdf to read his comments (only 3 sentences).

Budget Q&A cont.

Q: How were tobacco products (other than cigarettes) treated under the tobacco tax increase?

A: Other tobacco products (OTP) like spit and snuff will be taxed on a weight-based system. SFW didn't support this method in the budget. We asked the legislature to tax OTP on a percentage-of-wholesale price basis.

Am I surprised that weight-based taxation made its way into the final version of the budget? Nope. Why am I not surprised? Well, the smokeless tobacco company who stands to benefit the most from this system hired 6 lobbyists in Wisconsin to work for this special treatment.

Here's what's wrong with weight-based taxation of OTP:

  • Smokeless tobacco brands can manipulate their weight vs. nicotine delivery ratios to minimize the tax on their products, thereby reducing and destabilizing the amount of revenue generated from the tax
  • By effectively reducing the prices of lighter weight (and currently best-selling) smokeless products through lower taxes, which are also the smokeless products most popular with youth, this tax change would promote even higher levels of smokeless tobacco use by kids
  • Talk about a new bureaucracy - all OTPs are not created equal - in order to be applied equitably, each different type and sub-type of tobacco product will have to have its own tax rate that takes into account its relative weight per unit of nicotine delivered - that also means that a new rate-to-weight ratio will need to be developed every time a new smokeless product comes onto the scene
The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids has done some excellent research on this topic. For more information, visit their factsheet on OTP taxation here.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Governor Continues Push for Smoke-free...

The Wisconsin Radio Network captured some great quotes from Governor Doyle this morning - you can listen to Andrew Beckett's report on SB 150 here.

Changes on JFC

Newly elected Senate Majority Leader Russ Decker appointed two new members to the Joint Finance Committee today and moved Sen. Mark Miller to the chair position. Senators Judy Robson and Julie Lassa will now be serving on the committee. Sen. Bob Jauch is leaving the committee to head up a new committee called Tax Fairness and Family Prosperity.