Public Comment

Vote Against Proposition 29

By Harry Brill
Thursday May 31, 2012 - 04:04:00 PM

Those who are concerned about the ill effects of smoking should realize that there are far better ways of discouraging the habit than voting yes on Measure 29, which is a punitive, regressive cigarette tax on the poor. Obviously, middle class smokers won't be deterred by the extra cost. Schools as well as many good willed non-profit organizations could develop effective programs to educate and work with smokers to break this dangerous habit. A positive community approach is always far better than attempting to solve a problem with a punitive, regressive tax. Also, laws should be passed that appreciably limit the kind of advertising that the cigarette companies spend millions of dollars on. Their advertisements are dishonest and misleading. 

The claim by supporters that the tax money will be donated to fund cancer research is very seductive. But we already know the facts. More research to find cures doesn't begin to compare with the impact of taking preventative steps. To make considerable progress on defeating cancers involves acting on what we already know. In addition to community oriented programs, retailers, particularly drug stores, should be prohibited from selling cigarettes. Sounds crazy? Well, marijuana, which is far less dangerous than cigarettes is illegal. Why not, then, prohibit cigarettes, which is a known carcinogen. 

There is a broader issue. Keep in mind that our national cancer epidemic encompasses a lot more than the use of tobacco. Among other things, our foods are heavily sprayed with carcinogenic pesticides. No question, eating non-organic food is a major killer. But I doubt that most of you would support an initiative that imposed a high tax on non-organic food to protect our health. For the same reasons we should keep off the backs of poor people. We should not be distracted from the essential task of collectively engaging in a war against our unhealthy environment, which kills more people than our terrible foreign wars do, I realize that to achieve a livable environment and a longer life is a very formidable undertaking. But I am sorry to tell you that there is no other way than organizing collectively.