Sitnews - Stories In The News - Ketchikan, Alaska - Opinions



Alaskan Legislature Kills 400 children
by Mike Carney


July 10, 2004

According to testimony on HB1001 by Kattaryna Stiles of Alaska Tobacco Free Kids at the special session decreed by Governor Murkowski in late June, the Alaska Legislature killed 400 children. Alaska Tobacco Free Kids is a consortium health professionals and lobbyists including The Alaska Lung Association, American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, and the Alaska Native Health Board.

Why did Mrs. Stiles think that the Alaska Legislature was responsible for killing 400 children? Because they wanted to pass a 60 cent rather than a dollar tax. She equated the 40 cents to 400 dead children who would be killed by the legislature by not passing a dollar tax. She does have a point if we are to believe what she says. Really, they killed even more since they could have passed a tax even higher than a dollar. What ended up passing was SB1001 but not before it was modified by the House Finance Committee lowing the new tobacco tax to 60 cents per pack for the first year. This was the only thing that passed from this special session.

Mrs. Stiles was chastised by a member of the House Labor and Commerce Committee that stated " I take serious exception to your almost accusations by utilization of statistical numbers here to create a (cast) a potential motive on a member here on this committee and this legislature. I take real serious exception to being accused, not withstanding the fact that I support this tax,..and my colleagues that didn't support it, to say that they would be responsible for killing 400 children, I take great exception to that. ...we all realize that these estimates of heath affects and merely estimates. I strongly caution you..not to do that"

Mrs. Stiles also stated "every 10% increase there is a 6% decrease in the number of kids that smoke". Apparently, for every dollar they get, they erase some of the numbers on their statistical charts. We will have to see if this tax (100% over 4 years) will equal a 60% reduction in underage smoking.

She was also questioned by Representative Gatto who asked " What age is it legal to smoke?"

Stiles "19"

Gatto "If it's already illegal, what we are doing is taxing an illegal activity"

Mr. Gatto brought up a very good point with this question yet he failed to listen to the answer because he voted "yes" to pass this out of his committee. Next session, the Alaska Legislature will be looking in to a Smack Tax, Huffing Tax, Reefer Tax, and the coveted Crack Tax to fill budget deficits.

In researching this opinion article, I ran across Alaska Tobacco Free Kids web site. They were pleased to announce some of their "Champions" in our Alaska Legislature. There were some very nifty photos of American Lung Association lobbyist Michelle Toohey handing our homemade cutouts of newspaper articles to Representatives John Harris and Kevin Meyer as well as Senator Con Bunde. Apparently, killing 400 children is something to be proud of in Alaska.

Also worth noting in the hearings on SB1001 and HB1001 are the statements by the Department of Health and Human Services spokesman, Joel Gilbertson who stated the cost of smoking to Medicaid at a whopping 15%, or $31 per person annually. Now in case the "high cost" wasn't reason enough, Joel also stated that the $4,000,000 to be given to his department would be spent on such important things as advertising, grants to non-profits and clean air coalitions. It seems that putting a few bar owners out of business is also in Murkowski's "Plan" as well.

The AARP spokesperson that testified at this hearing stated "AARP supports any taxes at this time. The higher the better". He also likened smoking relating deaths to the deaths of our American soldiers in WWII and said that in that time period "nobody connected smoking with cancer and respiratory disease". Perhaps if he talked with some of the opposition's troops or the Chancellor himself, he would have been as "informed" then as he is now. Unfortunately, I cannot agree with his comparisons and insights. In WWII we were fighting a worth while cause, not a made up war against our own citizens.

There were a couple redeeming comments made by legislators that were on the right track with their statements:

Senator Green: "If we are going to talk about success and reduction, we at some point have to say we've done a wonderful job and declare victory".

"We will never satisfy the CDC, in a million years, on this issue. If they want to come and take over our programs, with their money, I think they should do that"

" I will again be opposing this on the floor. I do not believe it's correct or fair to continue to go after one commodity, one product as long as we in the State do not have a broad scale sales or do not tax except when we desire to change the behavior and lifestyle of people and I think a tax is an inappropriate way to do that"

Senator Ogan "I don't know if it's appropriate for the state to pass taxes to save ourselves from ourselves"

So what does all this mean for Alaska? It means pockets of those who lawfully consume a legal product will continue to be picked. There were be more late night Ads on the TV courtesy of the people these ads target. The "non-profits" will double their non-money via non-deductible State mandated donations. A few bars will be put out of business when the smoking bans hit and more smokers thrown out in the cold. And, according to Mrs. Kattaryna Stiles of Alaska Tobacco Free Kids, 400 dead children.

Mike Carney
Eagle River, Alaska - USA



Note: Comments published on Viewpoints are the opinions of the writer
and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Sitnews.



Post a Comment -------View Comments

Submit an Opinion - Letter

Stories In The News
Ketchikan, Alaska