Alaskan Legislature Kills
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
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
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?"
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
" 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.
Eagle River, Alaska - USA
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