Blast 'em

This Blast 'em blog is going to shine a much needed bright light on legislative shanigans. We will provide details of the wrong doing, give names of the doer, and describe the ramifications to the public. Initially we will focus primarily on consumer issues.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

TOBACCO $$$$$ PROBLEM & SOLUTION

Submission by Ira Rohter, PHD
Let’s Talk Straight About How Tobacco Industry Influences Hawaii’s GovernmentWhy is it that given all we know about the killing impact of smoking, editorials in both major newspapers and pleas by noted figures (Larry Price in Midweek, Jimmy Borges in the Advertiser) have to ask our legislators to pass Senate Bill 3262 (the “Healthy Air and Workplace Act”)? Each year 438,000 people die of tobacco related illness in the U.S., costing $167 billion in healthcare costs and lost productivity. And why does the American Lung Association State of Tobacco Control 2005 report rate Hawaii a “D” because the State spends too little on anti-smoking programs?Does Hawaii’s less-than-adequate regulations and programs have any connection to the fact that Hawaii’s elected officials have received direct “campaign donations” of $454, 394 from tobacco companies and their lobbyists in the last five years? Or that Big Tobacco has spent $103,780 to pay lobbyists in 2003, 2004, and 2005 to walk the halls of the Capitol to pitch their product? Has the $558,174 that the Tobacco Industry spent over the last 5 years influenced Hawaii’s legislators as they consider ways to cut-down smoking? It’s time for some truth-talk here. As the academic article “Tobacco Institute lobbying at the state and local levels of government in the 1990s (Tobacco Control 2002;11:1102-1109) dryly notes: marketing (that is, the advertising, pricing, product design, packaging, and distribution) of tobacco products is clearly affected by the legislative and regulatory environment in which it takes place. The tobacco industry seeks to manage this regulatory environment and has utilized a variety of strategies to oppose enactment of tobacco control legislation at the state and local levels of government. Controlling regulations which might reduce their profits is why Big Tobacco has given at least $20,371,398 to elected officials in all the 50 states from 2000 to 2005 (according to data complied by The Institute on Money in State Politics www.followthemoney.org) A Solution. Is there a way to reduce the influence of gigantic rich corporations like Phillip Morris and RJ Reynolds on legislation? Well, Maine, which a decade ago had the nation's highest teen smoking rate, has become the first state to win perfect scores (A) from the American Lung Association for its tobacco-fighting efforts. Maine has the distinguished honor to become the first state to score an A in each of the four categories: Tobacco Prevention Funding, Smokefree Air, Cigarette Tax and Youth Access. Maine has set an example for all states and proved that with the political will a perfect grade is possible. The result will be lives saved from the death and disease caused by tobacco use and addiction. What’s so special about Maine? The answer is that 78% of Maine’s legislators were elected running only on public funds. As “Clean Election candidates they received absolutely no “donations” from tobacco, pharmaceuticals, oil, land developers, healthcare, construction, lawyers, real estate, etc. special-interests. Maine’s legislators can write bills that are best for the voters who elect them, not what pleases their big-money funders. Hawaii’s citizens could also be able to play on a level-playing field if our legislators would pass a Voter Owned Elections program like Maine, Arizona, Connecticut, and other states have. Next time you see your elected representative, ask him or her to pass a Clean Elections bill now. [go to www. voe/xxxx for list of officeholders and donations received from Tobacco Industry] Ira RohterPresident, Hawaii Clean Elections732-5497

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