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Feb-28-2007 15:34printcomments

Oregon Bill Takes Aim at Smokers

The proposal faces an uncertain future amid concerns that the bill places an unfair burden on smokers.

Cigarette smoker
Image courtesy: catchasmoker.com

(SALEM) - Smokers could have to dig a little deeper in their pockets to buy a pack of cigarettes in Oregon, under legislation pending in the state House of Representatives.

To finance his Healthy Kids Program, Gov. Ted Kulongoski is seeking an 84.5-cent increase to the state’s cigarette tax to pay for healthcare coverage for an additional 117,000 uninsured children.

If approved, the state’s cigarette tax would rise to $2.02. Endorsed already by the House’s committees on Health and Revenue, the Democratic governor’s plan is currently before a Joint Ways and Means Sub-committee, which on Wednesday discussed the measure. The 11-member Human Services panel will decide whether to move the bill to the full committee.

The proposal -- House Bill 2201 -- faces an uncertain future amid concerns that the bill places an unfair burden on smokers.

“I do not advocate for smoking; I advocate for smokers,” Rep. Bill Garrard, a Klamath Falls Republican, said expressing his opposition to the bill.

Supporters, meanwhile, insisted Wednesday that the bill is more about saving lives than punishing smokers.

“Let’s just be clear about what we are talking about. We are talking about the most deadly, costly, expensive drug ever introduced into American society,” said state Sen. Ben Westlund, D-Tumalo.

An estimated $181 million would funnel into state coffers from the tax increase, but raising Oregon’s cigarette tax to $2.02 could be an uphill for Democrats who only narrowly control both houses of the Oregon Legislature.

To pass, three-fifths of the House would have to approve the proposal, meaning nine House Republicans must support the bill, along with all 31 Democrats to advance the bill to the state Senate.

So far, Republicans have expressed little enthusiasm for the proposal. Rep. Vicki Berger of Salem is the only House Republican who has supported the bill.

-Chris Rizo covers the state Capitol for Salem-News.com. He can be reached by e-mail at csrizo@hotmail.com

Comments Leave a comment on this story.

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Matt March 7, 2007 2:39 pm (Pacific time)

I'm all for legalizing marijuana- anyone wanna get stoend with me??

Hank Ruark March 2, 2007 6:20 am (Pacific time)

"Wit, wisdom, will of the people" means more than all $$$-against, in long run... Here's latest on that: "Most Support U.S. Guarantee of Health Care By ROBIN TONER and JANET ELDER "A majority of Americans say the federal government should guarantee health insurance to every American, especially children, and are willing to pay higher taxes to do it, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll. "While the war in Iraq remains the overarching issue in the early stages of the 2008 campaign, access to affordable health care is at the top of the public’s domestic agenda, ranked far more important than immigration, cutting taxes or promoting traditional values."

Henry Clay Ruark March 2, 2007 6:10 am (Pacific time)

To all: For clear picture of what's really at stake here, see Big O Metro-page (3/3) lead "GOP slams Democrat on kicker". Note especially direct tie on this dirty-tricks special in last pgs referring to Norquist cabal and ongoing cult-guidance from D.C. Rational,reasonable democratic dialog leading to informed citizen decision becomes impossible in light of such dubious shenanigans -- fully supported by corporate campaign contributions, per last Comment: "$650,000". Proof: Direct contradiction between Scott-statements and actions, documented by his own premature press release re killing off kicker agreement.

Hank Ruark March 2, 2007 5:42 am (Pacific time)

Prgrine: You misread powers openly contending here. Do you have $650,000 to put on-line for NO further tax on cigs ? "Other side" did so... Can you match what it takes for liquor lobbyist to state liquor-tax "unchanged for years", and he can "keep it that way" ? Ethics-fines just recently slapped on wrist, equalling some overtime/parking, after Hawaii-trips somehow forgotten by both procurer and elected participant,after return ??

Peregrine March 1, 2007 9:02 pm (Pacific time)

To Justin: What type of a moron are you? How is charging smokers a huge increase on taxes and using that money for children, making smokers pay for thier own bills? I don't smoke, but even *I* am not blind enough to see that the government is only taxing those who are in a unpopular minority and unable to get equal representation as *supposedly* provided in this country. You better make sure that you are not in the minority because after they finish taxing smokers to death, they will be searching for another segment to tax and if your minority happens to be in the light, it just maybe happen to you. Personally, I wish they would actually ban all smoking instead. It's not healthy, so get rid of it instead of stringing the poor smokers along like the tobacco companies do with thier increasing nicotene amounts.

RJ March 1, 2007 6:28 pm (Pacific time)

Sin taxes are always popular. Alcohol and tobacco is taxed and bad-mouthed by politicians, but by god, they love the money flowing in. As for policing oneself - nonsense. Society is increasingly becoming non-rational in the concerns to self, family and nation. Personal responsibility has flown the coop. Say goodnight Gracie...

Justin March 1, 2007 2:59 pm (Pacific time)

I think politicians are finally looking at the whole picture: Cigarette and smoking tobacco is the number one killer in America. As a recovering smoker, I used to go to the store and buy a pack of carcinogens which I could then smoke to slowly help end my life. The result: A burden to society. Healthcare cost in the US are the highest in the world; most of the money spent on healthcare is spent while dying. Smokers choose to smoke and then seek hospitals when they become terminally ill, costing tax payers billions. Why not reduce this burden to nonsmoking tax payers?Increase the tax for cigarettes and make smokers foot the bill of their undoings themselves?

Hank Ruark March 1, 2007 8:52 am (Pacific time)

RJ et al: Seems elected reps. already set up alcohol control, seen as-needed for societal wellbeing. Coming action re soda pop vs kids as obesity drives up healthcare costs ? Probably...if we do NOT properly control by parent intervention. Re caffeine, still seen as minor problem, but may force intervention, too, on same basis of healthcare neglect. We have choice: Do it for self, responsibly; OR society must do it for own protection.

Hank Ruark March 1, 2007 7:57 am (Pacific time)

Agree on politician prevarication as characteristic of whole breed...but here point is that tax hampers further addiction with dollars aiding those already stricken. SO hardly hit at smokers, but rather at poison-peddlers since cuts down heavily on vulnerabilities possible. How is it unfair to smokers to hamper their addiction ? If family members had chance to remove poison-access, would they not do so ? For me, this parallels that helpful situation, with proven results wherever so used NOW.

RJ March 1, 2007 6:40 am (Pacific time)

Heck---Raising the cigarette tax does place a bigger burden on the smoker. Oh wait...after the cigarette tax is increased, are they then going to hit the liquor, beer and wine drinkers then??? What about coffee and soda pop???

Audrey Silk February 28, 2007 10:52 pm (Pacific time)

These sanctimonious politicians are too funny. You know what they're really saying? This is what I'd put on a t-shirt: Keep Smoking: The children's health fund depends on it.

S. LaMarche; February 28, 2007 4:46 pm (Pacific time)

classic statemant by the K. Falls republican!, great politician! So why not ban these things altogether?, or if this tax is so beneficial, how about legalizing and taxing marijuana? I'd be a tax paying legal smoker of the beneficial weed while opening up jail space for the Taser or some Godly people or some politician taking bribes or somebody who poses a threat to society! I don't believe this! they know tobacco kills you!, they know alcohol kills you! they know firearms kill you! what the hell is going on? If everybodies head were removed from their asses at the same time there'd be a massive implosion! these things are true W.M.D.'s and all you need is a liscense to buy and sell for a trianual fee to our government! I'm almost ready to go back to church!, I've been saying God quite a lot lately.

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