2014-05-31 / Viewpoints

Seriously?

Dear editor:

Sometimes it’s hard to trace the corrupting influence of campaign donations on elected officials. But once in a while, it is so obvious that it makes me embarrassed to call myself a Pennsylvanian.

The most recent example is the refusal by many members of the General Assembly to even consider imposing a tax on smokeless tobacco.

Seriously?

Can you imagine any credible defense for a policy that taxes cigarettes and gives snuff, chewing tobacco and dipping tobacco a free ride? One recent study showed that taxing smokeless tobacco and subjecting the electronic nicotine delivery devices known to some as “ecigarettes” would generate $75 million a year in tax revenue for the state.

Lobbying money from Virginia and other tobacco-producing states flows into the coffers of many members of the General Assembly. Why do you think that is?

Because Pennsylvania is the only state without a tax on smokeless tobacco.

This is despicable. Shame on Pennsylvania!

Smokeless tobacco carries many risks, such as tooth decay, gum disease and cancer of the mouth. It a contributing factor for oral cancer and may play a role in other cancers, heart disease and stroke. Smokeless tobacco contains more nicotine than cigarettes, making it that much more addictive. Taxation is absolutely necessary as one step toward decreasing its use.

Experts all agree that the tax would reduce smokeless tobacco use among youth. It would provide additional funds to the commonwealth for health, education and other essential services.

About 24 percent of Pennsylvania high school seniors have used smokeless tobacco, higher than the 17 percent figure for high school seniors nationwide. Additionally, more than 11 percent of Pennsylvania seniors have used smokeless tobacco in the last 30 days, compared to 8 percent nationally.

Young people who use tobacco are more likely to use it as adults and thus less likely to live long, healthy lives. That also drives up the cost of health care.

It’s time for Pennsylvania to join all other states and treat all tobacco products equally.

Seriously!

Michael Ward

Wellsboro

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