Smokers just cannot seem to catch a break lately. First, this summer they discovered that beginning January 2009 smoking will be prohibited from bars and pool halls. Then, PSU stopped selling cigarettes and is talking about expanding smoke-free zones on campus. Now, Measure 50 proposes to add an 84.5-cent tax per pack of cigarettes.
At first, Measure 50 gives nonsmokers, like myself, a warm and fuzzy feeling inside. The tax will fund Oregon’s Healthy Kids Plan for uninsured children. The evil tobacco companies will rightfully be gouged by lost revenue and smokers will have to pay for polluting our children’s air.
However, the health of our children should not rely on people destroying their own health with cigarettes. The smokers who congregate between the buildings on campus create fumes hardly worse than car exhaust or the other many pollutants that factories dump into the air. By Measure 50’s rationalization, shouldn’t they have to pay as well?
Measure 50’s goals of prevention and funding health care seem to contradict each other. They hope that the extra tax will deter people from starting the bad habit and force smokers to quit. However, if there were less money spent on cigarettes, there would be less money to fund Measure 50’s Healthy Kids program.
The Healthy Kids Program sounds like a great idea. Supporters boast that the Healthy Kids Plan would provide 10,000 uninsured children with preventative care such as immunizations, as well as physical health, dental care and mental health services.
However, inflation and demand would soon inhibit Healthy Kid’s good intentions. Loss of revenue would make Healthy Kids just another under-funded, neglected program–which is shown with current programs such as the State Children’s Health Insurance Program and the Oregon Health Plan, both partially funded by the current cigarette taxes.
We should take care of these programs before setting up a brand-new program to fail.
One has to wonder if a cigarette tax is only the first stage. Are they going to start taxing alcohol, fast food and other luxuries as well? Will there be a sales tax? States with a sales tax are in no better position than we are. An Oct. 30 article published in The Arizona Republic revealed that approximately 250,000 children, one out of five, in Arizona are uninsured. According to a Sept. 2007 article in the Union-Tribune over 600,000 children are uninsured in California.
This year, the Oregon Legislature had $2.5 billion more than in prior years–this was a 20 percent record budget that politicians don’t know what to do with. Perhaps if politicians were to handle our money better, children could receive health care without added taxes. Oregon politicians like to store extra taxes like these into “rainy day” funds instead of putting the money to practical use. There are plenty of people that need that money now, not later.
Why should anyone be without healthcare? No individual’s health should be beyond his or her means. Universal health care is the solution, not a cigarette tax.
Read the voters pamphlets and read both sides of the argument before making a decision. Don’t forget to vote on Nov. 6.