Mission Statement

The mission of re:TH!NK, the Lakeshore Tobacco Prevention Network, is to improve the health of our residents by reducing tobacco use and exposure through prevention strategies which include community outreach and involvement to move policy forward collaboratively, across our multi-jurisdictional area.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Veto Tax Breaks for Big Tobacco

The following op-ed appeared in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel on June 21:

Wisconsin kids and taxpayers are poised to pay the price for Big Tobacco's future profits unless Gov. Scott Walker vetoes a tax break for tobacco manufacturers tucked inside the state budget.
The provision changes the way Wisconsin taxes moist tobacco products, making them cheaper and more appealing to children. This change from price-based taxation to so-called weight-based taxation benefits tobacco giant Philip Morris by reducing the tax on some of its most popular brands such as Skoal and Copenhagen - two brands that combined account for roughly half the youth smokeless market.
The cost of this tax break is our kids' health. Kids have limited budgets and limited means to buy these products. If you make them cheaper, you make it easier for kids to get hooked. In fact, for every 10% increase in the cost of tobacco, there's about a 6% to 7% decrease in the rate of underage users.
Even tobacco manufacturers themselves concede higher taxes on their products lead to fewer users and less profit. As early as 1985, Philip Morris' own documents state, "Of all the concerns, there is one - taxation - that alarms us the most. While marketing restrictions . . . do depress volume, in our experience taxation depresses it much more severely." Clearly, combating "depressed volume" through increased addiction and decreased taxation is still of utmost concern to Philip Morris.
Another even bigger problem is that tobacco manufacturers can now easily manipulate their products' weight to minimize taxation. For example, some of the newest super lightweight snuff products weigh as little as one-eighth that of a standard can of traditional moist tobacco. Over time, this leads to less tobacco revenue for the state and more tobacco users.
Considering Wisconsin spends $2.8 billion annually on tobacco-related health care costs, including $480 million direct from taxpayers through Medicaid, helping Big Tobacco make its products cheaper and more appealing to kids doesn't make sense.
According to a 2009 survey by the federal National Institute of Drug Abuse, smokeless tobacco use among middle and high school kids has remained steady or increased in recent years, even as the teen smoking rate hit an all-time low. In fact, the percentage of 10th-graders using smokeless tobacco "increased significantly," according to the survey, from 5% to 6.5% in just 2009.
Perhaps this increase is due to the fact that many smokeless tobacco products are fruit flavored and are sometimes packaged to look similar to candy - a marketing tactic obviously aimed at kids.
Already, nearly 20% of Wisconsin high school students have tried moist tobacco products. How many more will do so when a can of snuff fits just as easily into their budgets as it does their back pockets?
Tobacco companies will always try to lure kids with new products and new flavors, but Wisconsin does not need to give them a new tax break to do so.
Contact Walker and ask him to veto this tax break and protect our kids from a lifetime of addiction and our state from a future of increased tobacco-related budget burdens.
Gail Sumi is Wisconsin government relations director for the American Cancer Society. Maureen Busalacchi is executive director of SmokeFree Wisconsin.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

New Warning Labels Good for Health

Cigarette packaging and advertising will have a new, less attractive look starting in fall 2010. The graphic warning labels, which were released on Tuesday, are a part of a campaign by the Food and Drug Administration that aims to convey the dangers of tobacco, which is responsible for about 443,000 deaths and nearly $200 billion in medical care and lost productivity in the U.S. every year.

This measure is aimed at making sure that every American understands the dangers of smoking. Most smokers (about 9 out of 10) started smoking before the age of 18. While the Tobacco Industry dubbs their products as a legal products "for adults only," most of their consumers start as kids. These warning labels, which have been shown to be effective in reducing smoking rates in youth and adults are another step foward in health.

For more information about the new warning labels read this MSNBC article or check out the FDA Tobacco website.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Tobacco Tax Increases Fight the War on Tobacco

The single most influencer on a youth's decision to use tobacco or a current users decision to quit is the COST. With WI facing program cuts left and right and a $3.6 billion deficit over the next two years, increasing tobacco taxes (and not by converting our moist snuff tax from a percentage-of-price-based system to a weight-based system) is a win win win for our state's YOUTH, CURRENT USERS, and GENERAL TAXPAYERS.

Check out this Blog Post from The Examiner to read what I'm talking about.