A Letter to the Editor in the Nov. 13, 2007, Tomahawk Leader:
We appreciate your coverage of one of the more important public health policies in the new state budget – reducing tobacco use and a $1 increase in the price of cigarettes.
The reaction to the increase in the cigarette tax, however, suggests that many readers miss the point of why the increase is important. Or they haven’t heard the facts.
The tax isn’t about the money it brings in. It’s about the lives and the money it saves.
Gov. Jim Doyle put it best. He said he hopes we don’t collect any money from the cigarette tax in the future because no one will smoke. That’s unrealistic, of course. But he’s on point. The evidence from other states with similar increases is clear: The tax increase will result in about 100,000 fewer smokers, two-thirds of them today’s children who won’t ever get started smoking.
Critics skew the math by missing – or ignoring – that reducing smoking reduces costs to taxpayers. The state (yes, that’s you the taxpayer) paid $480 million in Medicaid bills last year to treat low-income smokers who got sick. Add in what additional money we all pay in health care premiums and we are over a billion dollars in costs due to tobacco-related disease.
If everyone would quit, as Gov. Doyle suggested, we would save half a billion in tax dollars each year and thousands of lives. Do the math. Even if the tax doesn’t generate the money that is predicted, we’re still money ahead.
While some smokers’ reactions are understandable, this is not about taxing the vulnerable to raise money – or punishing “sin.”
It is about extremely effective, wise and simple health care policy that saves lives and saves taxpayers’ money. If you are a smoker, we know that most of you want to quit. Let us help! Services are available through most health insurance and Medicaid. In addition, the tobacco control program helps to fund the quit line -1-800-QUIT-NOW.
We all win when smokers quit and kids never start. Thank you State Legislature and governor for doing the right thing.
Smoke Free Wisconsin