Monday, August 10, 2009

Great guest editorial in the Berlin Journal

Marilyn Voeltner from Green Lake County wrote a July 30, 2009 guest column for the Berlin Journal about the Tobacco-Free Families bill and Tobacco Prevention and Control funding. The column is reprinted below. Great job Marilyn!

One step forward, two steps back
By Marilyn Voeltner, guest columnist

One step forward and two steps back. Even with the best of intentions that sometimes happens.

Consider the recent 75 cent tax increase per pack on cigarettes recently enacted by the state legislature. In theory the increase sounds good -- increasing the tax has proven to be one way to deter young smokers and low-income smokers. That's an excellent step forward.

But what the legislature failed to do was to follow past practices and reduce the discount rate cigarette distributors receive on the amount they pay for attaching the state tax stamp to cigarette packs. What this means is that tobacco companies and distributors benefit -- the additional money goes into their pockets, not into tobacco prevention programs.

In the past when tobacco taxes were increased, the discount rate was adjusted to prevent a taxpayer-funded raise to tobacco sellers. Without an adjustment, we taxpayers are effectively putting more money into the pockets of Big Tobacco.

On top of this, the state legislature recently slashed the tobacco prevention and control program nearly 55 percent to just $6.85 million. Contrast that with the $276.1 million the tobacco industry spends per year marketing its products in Wisconsin! Every dollar cut from tobacco funding means more kids using tobacco products, smokers going without the resources they need to quit and an even greater burden of tobacco on Wisconsin.

Obviously that's two steps back!

Fortunately, the Tobacco-Free Families Bill currently being introduced to the legislature is an effort to restore some of the lost funding. If passed, the bill would lower the discount on tobacco tax stamps for tobacco retailers, generating some much-needed $1.2 million for the tobacco prevention and control program.

Wisconsin's tobacco program has seen good results-- fewer kids and adults are smoking, over 132,000 people have called the Wisconsin Tobacco Quit Line, and as of July 5, 2010, all Wisconsin work sites will be smoke-free. Those are giant steps forward ... now is NOT the time to take two steps back.

It is crucial the legislature passes the Tobacco-Free Families Bill.

No comments: