SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


By Teri J. Wilson


December 29, 2009

The following is an open letter to the Members and Mayor of Ketchikan Gateway Borough:

With disgust I read the article in the newspaper of Monday, December 21, 2009, wherein the borough is considering a cigarette tax, the supposed reasons for this are to discourage underage smoking and to create a new revenue source.

I will agree that underage smoking is a problem, but it is a small problem compared to the alcohol and drug abuse in this community, particularly among these same underage smokers. I refer you to the Ketchikan Daily News or the courthouse schedules to see how many MCAs (Minor Consuming Alcohol) are written, the number of car accidents that are caused by alcohol and drugs, the number of domestic violence cases reported due to alcohol, and the number of violent incidents reported where alcohol and drugs are a factor.

Within the State of Alaska, and I have no doubt that Ketchikan's numbers would be the same, alcoholism and violence-related crimes are, per capita, higher than in any other state. Why is this being ignored? Quite frankly, I would rather see my child smoke than drink or do the illegal and pharmaceutical drugs that are available on the street.

If you were to tax alcohol instead, you would have enough revenue to open an inpatient treatment facility, something Ketchikan no longer has. You could also fund programs for the children of this community, who currently have nothing to do and are consequently, constantly in trouble. If a beer cost $10 in a bar or a 6-pack cost $12 in the liquor store, it would certainly cut down on the amount of alcohol consumed and make it harder for minors to get it. It would generate revenue the likes of which has not been seen in this community, probably more money than even you could spend.

I have lived in southeast Alaska for 30 years, and I've seen carloads of teenagers killed in accidents because of alcohol and drugs, and suicides are out of control. It's time for Ketchikan to address the REAL problems in this community, and believe me, smoking is not even on the list.

For your information, a smoking tax will only affect people like me, those on a fixed or low income. The street value of Suboxone, one of the most prolific drugs on the street, is over $100 for one pill. Depending on the dosage, the street value of Oxycontin is $80 to $120 a pill. The underage community can afford this, and alcohol, do you really think a cigarette tax cut down on underage smoking?!? Let's get real here. I am fed up with smoking propaganda that is just that, propaganda, and with double taxation on cigarettes now that the State has instituted their own tax. Smoking does not cause overdoses, death by driving under the influence, or death by violence. Cigarettes take decades to kill, a drunk or impaired driver can kill in a moment.

For non-smokers, there are already restaurants and bars who either have no smoking areas or are non-smoking throughout. I live here in Ketchikan, where everything is prohibitively expensive, including rent, food, gasoline, car insurance and clothing. Because I live in Ketchikan, I do without an awful lot of things that people who live down south take for granted. Part of that trade-off is that there are less (or were less) stringent laws about ridiculous things. The last thing I want to see is an anti-smoking campaign when our children are not being properly educated, where our children have nothing to do, and our jail is full of offenders who have become addicted to the street and pharmaceutical drugs and alcohol so readily available to them.

Ms. Teri J. Wilson
Ketchikan, AK


Received December 29, 2009 - Published December 29, 2009


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