California lawmakers chose not to make smokers pay more for health insurance, but they may be more willing to make smokers pay more for cigarettes.
A new bill proposing to raise the tax on tobacco by $2 per pack of cigarettes cleared its first two committee votes last week in predictably partisan votes. SB 768, by Sen. Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles), would raise the price of cigarettes to more than $8 a pack and generate about $1.4 billion a year. De León proposes the money be used to offset costs of medical care for tobacco-related diseases, anti-tobacco education and smoking-cessation programs.
The Senate Governance and Finance Committee approved the bill in a 5-2 vote and the Senate Committee on Health approved it 6-2. All “yes” votes were Democrats. All “no” votes were Republican.
“Taxpayers pay $3.1 billion a year to subsidize this industry,” de León told the health committee, citing an estimate for California’s annual medical costs for tobacco-related diseases and health problems.
“On a fiscal level, the price is much too high, and taxpayers have been footing the bill for much too long,” de León said.
California, which hasn’t increased taxes on tobacco since 1998, now charges $0.87 cents on each pack of cigarettes and ranks 33rd in the country in tobacco taxation. De Leon’s bill would move the state into fourth place.
Anyone who has ever walked into a “non-smoking” hotel room and caught the distinct odor of cigarette smoke will not be surprised by the findings of a new study: When a hotel allows smoking in any of its rooms, the smoke gets into all of its rooms, the study suggests, according to a story in USA Today.
Nicotine residues and other chemical traces “don’t stay in the smoking rooms,” says Georg Matt, a psychologist from San Diego State University who led the study, published Monday in the journal Tobacco Control. “They end up in the hallways and in other rooms, including non-smoking rooms.”
The study found smoke residue on surfaces and in the air of both smoking and non-smoking rooms in 30 California hotels where smoking was allowed. Levels were highest in the smoking rooms, but levels in non-smoking rooms were much higher than those found at 10 smoke-free hotels.
Volunteers who stayed overnight in the smoking hotels also ended up with sticky nicotine residues on their fingers, whether they stayed in smoking rooms or not. Urine tests found additional evidence of nicotine exposure in those who stayed in smoking rooms, but not those who stayed in the non-smoking rooms.
Three of Canada’s tobacco giants began their defense Monday against a $27-billion class-action lawsuit in Montreal by calling a witness who said the dangers of smoking are no secret.
Historian and professor Jacques Lacoursière testified tobacco’s health risks have been common knowledge for decades. He pointed to over 700 references to the hazards of smoking dating back to the 1950s, including TV and radio reports, school manuals, government releases and health professionals.
One of the many examples included a newspaper article that outlined a significant increase in lung cancer risk following the prolonged use of cigarettes. The proceedings will continue on Tuesday with the plaintiffs’ cross-examination of Lacoursière.
“What these historians miss is all the coverage that came out in the media about how the industry was involved in a conspiracy to hide all that information,” said Damphousse François, the Quebec director of the Non-Smoker’s Rights Association.
“They knew about the health effects of their products, but they didn’t meet the obligation to inform their public about what they knew.”
The class-action lawsuit, which is being touted as the biggest civil case in Canadian history, was first filed years ago. The complainants, two groups of individuals representing a total of 1.8 million Quebecers, allege three tobacco companies did everything possible to encourage addiction:
- Imperial Tobacco.
- Rothmans, Benson & Hedges.
One group involves individuals who have become seriously ill from smoking, and members of the other group say they are unable to quit smoking.
A call by the Cancer Council for smoking to be banned at all West Australian (WA) mines sites has been rejected, according to an Australian Associated Press report.
The Chamber of Minerals and Energy (CME) has said that a ban would cause resentment.
WA’s Department of Mines and Petroleum data show smoking rates in the mining sector are almost double the national average.
The CME’s manager of occupational health and safety, Richard Wilson, was quoted as saying that public health campaigners needed to design strategies to improve the health of the whole population, not target specific industries.
“Singling out one sector above others just causes resentment amongst people in that industry and fails to improve health outcomes across the population,” Wilson said.
The Tobacco Board of India has increased Karnataka’s authorized 2013–14 crop size by about four percent on that of 2012–13, according to a report in the latest issue of the BBM Bommidala Group newsletter.
The crop size has been set at 102 million kg, up from 98 million kg in 2012–13 and 100 million kg in each of the previous two years.
The increase is said to have been driven by international demand for the crop.
Traders had sought a crop of 112 million kg and growers one of 105 million kg at a recent board meeting, the report said.
Reynolds American Inc. has agreed to resume discussions with the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) about ways to address alleged farm-worker abuse, according to a story by Federico Martinez for The Blade (Toledo, Ohio).
Reynolds was said to have agreed to resume the meetings after the farm-labor union and advocacy group staged a protest outside the tobacco company’s annual shareholders meeting in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, USA.
“It appears that there is some interest on their part,” said FLOC president Baldemar Velasquez, who added that he hadn’t heard from Reynolds’ officials since December. “Whether or not they are sincere about addressing the concerns is another issue.”
Velasquez and other critics say they want Reynolds’ officials to address several issues, including the human trafficking of workers from Mexico and Central America, and the numerous human-rights abuses from which they say tobacco-industry laborers frequently suffer.
FLOC’s primary mission was to persuade the tobacco company to support farm workers’ efforts to form a union, said Velasquez.
Many tobacco farm workers lived in labor camps with inadequate or non-functioning toilets or showers and other substandard conditions. They also suffered from nicotine poisoning and exposure to dangerous pesticides, he added.
Reynolds’ spokesman David Howard said the two sides hadn’t met since December but they had communicated by phone and email.
“We’ve had a series of discussions since December,” Howard said. “They are ongoing and we will continue meeting and having dialogue.”