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Time for Change
Tuesday, June 14, 2005
Just when you think it can't get sillier - it does
CDC investigates fat pandemic

The food foray suggests the CDC has way too much time on its hands and way too much money in its budget. Grotesque farce masquerading as science cannot be ridiculed enough.

The CDC sent a team of specialists to study fat the same way it studies outbreaks of infectious diseases, according to The New York Times.

"It's the plump plague! Run ... um, waddle for your lives!"

Posted by change101 at 8:56 PM EDT
Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Smoking foe on council sees ban folly

Apparently, the Denver City Council is never too busy to intercede with some good old-fashioned social engineering. And soon enough, smoking in restaurants and bars will be banned.

It's enough to make a holier-than-thou politician - with pristine pink lungs - shriek with delight.

Jeanne Faatz, at this point, is the lone voice of reason on the council. She still believes in trivial things like free enterprise and property rights.

Posted by change101 at 10:08 PM EST

Hellfire and Anti-Tobacco

Local religious leaders are plunging into the turbulent politics of tobacco control, calling Thursday for an increase in the state tobacco tax and a ban on public smoking in Cleveland.

Members of a new faith-based coalition are following the footprints of religious leaders in Columbus who helped the capital city pass a smoking ban last year.

Posted by change101 at 9:53 PM EST

Minnesota's richest and most controversial anti-tobacco group has plunged back into lobbying for smoking ban laws after a court-ordered hiatus that lasted three years, and the move has touched off a new round of public criticism.

State Rep. Tim Wilkin, R-Eagan, has resigned from the board of the Minnesota Partnership for Action Against Tobacco (MPAAT) because of the decision, announced Friday, to award grants of up to $1.5 million "to build citizen participation efforts to protect the public from exposure to second hand smoke."

Rep. Tom Rukavina, DFL-Virginia, said that he, too, will quit the board over what he called its "tobacco jihad." Attorney General Mike Hatch, a DFLer who went to court in 2002 to stop MPAAT's earlier lobbying, also voiced displeasure, although his office said he plans no further legal efforts against the group.

"He's very troubled that state money is being used to lobby public officials," said Hatch spokeswoman Leslie Sandberg. "He feels it is a wrong use of the dollars."

Posted by change101 at 9:46 PM EST

Wyoming black market troubles

RIVERTON -- Higher state tobacco taxes imposed 16 months ago have contributed to increased black market trading of cigarettes in Wyoming, a state tax official said.

"We recently seized 2,000 cartons of contraband cigarettes that had come into Wyoming and were about to be sold without the required Wyoming stamp," Dan Noble, head of the excise tax division of Wyoming Department of Revenue, said.

The 2003 Wyoming Legislature raised the excise tax on a pack of cigarettes from 12 cents to 60 cents. The higher tax took effect July 1, 2003.

Noble said recently that his agency may revoke two or three wholesale tobacco licensees because of violations of state law.

Noble said sale of untaxed cigarettes over the Internet is another threat to the $15 to $20 million in revenue the state receives from taxes on the sale of tobacco products.

Some vendors are blatantly advertising sale of cigarettes over the Internet, avowing that sales are made without applying taxes. And some American Indian tribes are advertising untaxed tobacco products for sale.

Noble said outlets on the Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming try to estimate cigarette sales to non-Indians and pay taxes on those sales.

The state revenue department recently conducted simultaneous inspections of 11 tobacco wholesalers. In one site, cigarettes were found with Colorado, rather than Wyoming stamps.

Tom Jones, lobbyist for the tobacco wholesalers, said most wholesale tobacco businesses are family-owned and run, investing heavily in stamp application equipment and abiding by all the laws.

Noble said his agency has chosen not to publicize wholesalers found in violation of state law.

Posted by change101 at 9:44 PM EST
Growing tobacco is bad - how about poppys?
Tobacco Treaty Threat to Economy

An economist from Kingdom Bank, Mr Witness Chinyama, said that the ratification of the 40th country posed a serious threat to the country's agro-based economy.

"Tobacco is our major foreign currency earner. This development will mean that we won't be able to generate as much foreign exchange as we used to.

"Since our economy is on a larger scale agro-based, we find ourselves in a very difficult situation.

"The way forward would be to find alternative means, for example we could direct our focus to platinum and gold."

Mr Chinyama added that though it was important to look at alternative means, tobacco still offered the best economic return per hectare as compared to other crops grown in Zimbabwe.

He said a hectare of tobacco is 22 times more profitable than cotton, 57 times more profitable than maize and 59 times more profitable than soya beans.

He also said that tobacco was a springboard for the production of other crops.

Mr Chinyama's argument is based on the fact that tobacco growers in Zimbabwe produce some 35 percent of the country's maize, 30 percent of beef, 30 percent of the total wheat output and 20 percent of the national soya beans production.

"According to the tobacco and commercial yearbook of 1995, tobacco financed the spectacular improvement in farming methods which have led to Zimbabwe achieving self-sufficiency and exportable surpluses in food and cash crops," he concluded.

Posted by change101 at 9:18 PM EST
Sunday, December 19, 2004

North Carolina to Raise Cigarette Taxes to Off-set Budget Shortfall

Raising of state cigarette tax surfaces anew
Since budget shortfall is projected, 'something is probably coming along that line,' speaker says
By David Rice
Wednesday, December 15, 2004


North Carolina is facing a projected shortfall of $1 billion when temporary sales and income taxes expire next year, so House Co-Speaker Jim Black is discussing with tobacco companies the prospect of higher cigarette taxes, he said yesterday.

"I've had some discussion with the tobacco companies and members of the House, and they understand that something is probably coming along that line," Black told reporters after the House Democratic caucus nominated him for a fourth term as speaker.

Though Senate leader Marc Basnight has long favored higher taxes on cigarettes and alcohol, Black has been more reluctant until now. But he said yesterday that even cigarette-makers are willing to discuss higher taxes on cigarettes.

"They're open to sharing their revenue for the right issues and the right use, which is still yet to be determined," said Black, who added that he was "a bit surprised" by the companies' attitude.

"That is something that even the tobacco companies have talked positively about. But we don't need any tax that we don't need," he said.

At 5 cents a pack, North Carolina has the second-lowest state excise tax in the country, behind Kentucky.

But even Virginia - the home of industry leader Philip Morris USA - increased cigarette taxes this year. In North Carolina, each 1-cent increase in the cigarette tax is projected to raise about $7 million.

Brennan Dawson, a spokeswoman for R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., said yesterday that even though the legislative session doesn't start until next month, "lots of people are saying that a cigarette tax is going to be necessary to close the gap."

"We would be disappointed if we were a leading revenue-raiser," Dawson said. "But we are not in negotiations.... We are in a wait-and-see mode. There are people who like to raise taxes, and Jim Black is not one of them."

Black said that after they convene in January, legislators can also be expected to consider creation of a state lottery, which is projected to raise $300 million to $500 million a year for the state.

Though Gov. Mike Easley is a lottery supporter, the last time that a lottery came to a vote in the House in 2001, it failed by 19 votes.

"We'll be looking at that as we go along," Black said.

"You never know 'til you pull the trigger. We have a reputation for wanting to know the votes are there before we do that."

He said he does not necessarily want to raise taxes, and he hopes that the state's economic recovery means bigger revenues without any tax increases.

"I always like to live within our means," Black said. "My first choice is to spend smarter, but I do not want to cut back on education."

He also noted that Judge Howard Manning of Wake Superior Court has ordered the state to spend more on its poor school systems to comply with a ruling by the state Supreme Court in the long-running Leandro lawsuit.

"The judge has spoken in Leandro. We all want to do the right thing ... not only in those jurisdictions but all over the state," Black said.

Posted by change101 at 9:03 PM EST

RJR Raises Prices

Philip Morris is also raising prices.

Associated Press
RJR Unveils Price Increases, Reductions
Monday December 13, 7:54 pm ET
R.J. Reynolds Tobacco to Raise List Prices on Certain Brands, Reduce Retail Discounts on Others

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) -- R.J. Reynolds Tobacco will increase list prices on certain brands and reduce retail discounts on others, the cigarette maker said Monday.
RJR, a subsidiary of Reynolds American Inc., said its actions are a result of higher costs due to the recent federal enactment of tobacco buyout legislation and increased obligations under its master settlement with the states.

Reynolds American spokesman Seth Moskowitz said the list price on RJR's biggest brands, such as Camel, Kool, Winston, Salem, Doral and Pall Mall would not change. But the company is reducing the discounts on those brands by an average of $1 a carton or 10 cents a pack.

The company will increase list prices on brands such as unfiltered Camels, Barclay, Lucky Strike and Carlton by $3 per thousand, or about 6 cents per pack, Moskowitz said.

For discount brands, the cigarette-maker said it will raise prices by $5 per thousand, or 10 cents per pack, for its Monarch, Best Value and GPC brands.

The company said in a statement that it estimates total expenses associated with the master settlement agreement and the tobacco buyout to exceed $2.8 billion next year. The buyout is being funded by assessments on major tobacco companies.

The move came three days after rival Philip Morris USA, which is owned by Altria Group Inc., announced its own price increase.

Shares of Reynolds American advanced $1.23, or 1.6 percent, to close at $77 on the New York Stock Exchange -- toward the high end of their 52-week range of $53.37 to $78.78.

Posted by change101 at 8:43 PM EST
Tuesday, December 7, 2004

Tobacco Politics - Editorial, Dec. 5, 2004

Tobacco politics:
Don't fund anti-smoking programs

PAY NO attention to last week's highly publicized report from an anti-smoking group that ranked New Hampshire dead last in state spending on anti-smoking programs. It is meaningless.

The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids lambasted New Hampshire for spending none of its share of national tobacco settlement money on anti-smoking programs. "Criminal" is how the group's president described the state's behavior. "When New Hampshire sued the tobacco companies, it said it was doing so to protect its kids."

Well, sort of. New Hampshire sued for two reasons: 1) to protect children from tobacco company advertising geared toward teens, and 2) to recoup money already spent on treating ill smokers. The financial portion of the settlement was always intended to reimburse the state for money previously spent, not to fund future health programs.

"This is compensation for state Medicare funds, and it should go to the general fund and be used to fund the priorities of state government, and certainly education funding is on the list," then-House Speaker Donna Sytek said of the tobacco settlement money in November 1998.

Douglas Barry, president of the American Lung Association's New Hampshire chapter in the fall of 1998, said of the settlement, "It's an economic settlement and not a public health settlement."

The idea that the national tobacco settlement was ever about funding anti-smoking programs is a myth spread by anti-smoking groups.

Another myth spread by anti-smoking groups is that government spending on anti-smoking programs reduces smoking. New Hampshire ranked dead last in state spending on anti-smoking programs this year, but the percentage of Granite Staters who smoke (21.2 percent, according to a Centers for Disease Control survey released last month) is lower than the national average (22.1 percent). According to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Maine spent the most on anti-smoking programs. But the CDC reports that 23.6 percent of Mainers smoke -- 1.5 percentage points higher than the national average and 2.4 percentage points higher than New Hampshire.

No one should smoke. It is an unhealthy and addictive habit. But so is eating doughnuts. It should be up to individuals to decide -- without government interference -- whether they want to indulge in dangerous pleasures such as eating fatty foods, riding motorcycles, or smoking.

State government is obliged to allocate its resources only to things government has to do, and make sure that those things produce results. Generally speaking, government-run anti-smoking programs are neither necessary nor effective. So why fund them?

Posted by change101 at 12:27 AM EST

Cigarette Burn, New York Post

Smokers, after shouldering price hikes for years, have mounted a sullen strike. (Legal) cigarette shipments were down 5 percent last year -- startling executives and tax collectors, who thought that the smoker would always keep smoking without regard for damage to lungs or wallet.

But the state Health Department said last week that 188,000 New Yorkers have quit smoking since 2000 -- mostly due to tax hikes. If the feds force Big Tobacco to hike prices again, Silver, Bruno and Pataki may find that they've built their budget on the wrong end of a tipping point -- consumers may be unwilling to pay $8 a pack, and tobacco payments to New York would shrink.

And what if Big Tobacco won't settle -- and opts for a game of chicken with the governors' lobby?

This possibility illustrates the real danger of the states' collusion with cigarette salesmen: States are now major creditors -- and thus agents -- of Big Tobacco. Tobacco execs know that states -- led by Pataki and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, whose two states get more than a quarter of the tobacco-settlement proceeds -- would have to fight the Bush administration to avoid an industry loss at trial, to save the tobacco companies and themselves.

Thus, the states' fiduciary relationship with Public Health Enemy No. 1 -- one of intimate and consummate hypocrisy -- will seep upwards to the federal level. The feds, with their own federal deficit and mushrooming health-care costs, could become just as dependent on a regular tobacco take.

Because Pataki and other big-state governors across the country have utterly failed to manage their state budgets, Big Tobacco has finally become too big to fail -- and a federal settlement of the RICO case will ensure that it never will.

Posted by change101 at 12:02 AM EST

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