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Tobacco Deal is Not About Reducing Teen Smoking

By Sue Blevins
September 10, 1998

I'd like to share a personal perspective on one of the hottest topics in Washington this summer -- the tobacco deal. That is, the idea that Congress should raise taxes on tobacco products to get people, especially teens, to stop smoking, then use the funds to pay for government-funded biomedical research.

No Fan of Tobacco

Simply put, I am no fan of tobacco. Like Al Gore and Newt Gingrich, I have also lost a family member to lung cancer. It was the most grueling death I had ever witnessed in all my years as a registered nurse. So I have a lot of sympathy with the public health advocates who want to help Americans, especially teenagers, to quit smoking.

But are today's politicians going about reducing teen smoking in the right way? Probably not.

Effective Policy?

Supporters of comprehensive tobacco reform claim they want to prevent teenagers from starting to smoke in the first place. But they are raising tobacco taxes for everyone -- not just teenagers.

Surely, if politicians were serious about reducing teen smoking, they would enforce existing laws already created to do just that.

Yet, most politicians seem more interested in raising "new" money by passing new tobacco laws, rather than stopping teenage smoking by enforcing existing laws.

Some politicians (from both major political parties) want to use the tobacco deal money to help pay for medical research. The idea sounds admirable. But increasing medical research funding will not guarantee a reduction in teen smoking. It will merely funnel taxpayers' money to medical schools without much media attention being paid to the fact that these schools already receive billions of dollars of government subsidies given in the name of research.

Of course, the medical school researchers cannot guarantee that they will reduce teen smoking based on the amount of money they are given. If that were possible, then politicians could truthfully make the case that funding medical research will reduce teen smoking.

Most Americans agree that the tobacco industry should not get off the hook by lying to the American public while manipulating their children into nicotine addiction with altered products and seductive advertising. Equally, politicians should not be given a free ride when they manipulate the American public by claiming that the tobacco deal is about reducing teen smoking, when it's really about expanding government.

This article was originally published in the July/August issue of Health Freedom Watch.

...Most politicians seem more interested in raising "new" money by passing new tobacco laws, rather than stopping teenage smoking by enforcing existing laws.