Sunday, April 17, 2005
for state to develop policy about smoking
SC Statehouse Report
17, 2005 - - With everything that's known about how dangerous
smoking can be to one's health, it's kind of odd to consider
the state of South Carolina really doesn't have a health policy
"If it's a public policy, it's a well-concealed one,"
said Senate President Pro Tem Glenn McConnell, R-Charleston.
Instead of a coordinated policy that encompasses efforts
on everything from working with tobacco farmers to grow alternative
cash crops to an education effort to highlight the dangers
of smoking, the state has a mish-mash approach at best. Just
look at what's recently happened:
tax increase. When economic times were bad over the
last couple of budget cycles, there were serious efforts
to increase the state's low 7-cent-per-pack cigarette tax
to the national average of about 60 cents per pack. Talk
about the increase, which would bring in about $180 million,
didn't even make it to the table this year. In California,
adult and teen smoking rates reportedly dropped dramatically
over 15 years following a 25-cent-per-pack tax hike, 20
percent of which was dedicated to tobacco education programs.
- Targeting youths. In our state where teen smoking
is 36 percent, a bill by Rep. Scott Talley, R-Spartanburg,
calls for criminal penalties for youths who possess tobacco.
If caught with cigarettes, teenagers under 18 could get
fines from $100 to $300. This seems to be a knuckleheaded
approach because it addresses the tail end - - relatively
defenseless kids who may be addicted to tobacco - - rather
than the source of the problem - - the state's general acceptance
- Targeting public places. Another bill before the
General Assembly would allow local governments to ban smoking
in public places. While the measure may seem laudable on
its face to people who want to go into restaurants without
smelling tobacco smoke, McConnell rightly points out that
the language of the proposal is too sweeping and may allow
communities to regulate smoking in people's homes, which
would be going too far.
These efforts, however, are ways to regulate or change behavior
at the fringes. Something more is needed.
First, lawmakers need to have a serious discussion on whether
they want to try to curb smoking rates as a state priority.
It would be smart to do so. By cutting smoking rates, there
would be less of a burden on the state's health system because
fewer people likely would get smoking-related illnesses. In
a time when health care costs are soaring, this would help
relieve stress on Medicaid programs and the state health plan.
Second, if lawmakers agree that curbing smoking is a priority,
they could take a more comprehensive approach by concentrating
on educational efforts to inform people about the dangers
of smoking. Then citizens could make better informed choices.
WORLD: Allergy season is definitely here
On wedge politics
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"We're doing very little, if any, in this area,"
McConnell said. "If you really want to have an impact
on youth smoking or adult smoking, it has got to be through
That being said, why isn't the state using its funds from
the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement to educate people
about smoking? That's one of the main reasons it received
more than $910 million in 2001 from securitizing its share
of the agreement.
As of November, more than $573 million was in the state's
Healthcare Tobacco Settlement Trust Fund. But instead of being
used for anti-smoking education and efforts to help farmers
find alternative crops such as nutraceuticals, it seems to
have been used as a slush fund to reduce Medicaid and Medicare
In fact, South Carolina ranks dead last in using its tobacco
settlement monies for tobacco prevention efforts, according
to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. In state budgets for
last year and this year, no monies are targeted for tobacco
prevention, even though the U.S. Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention say the state should spend between $23.9 million
and $62 million a year to have an effective, comprehensive
tobacco prevention program.
Bottom line: There's a source for money to fund tobacco prevention
and education programs if lawmakers would use it properly.
It would be smart to do so because by cutting smoking rates,
the state would be lowering its health care costs down the
road. Instead of legislating around the fringes, get a state
policy that works.
season is definitely here
Another great cartoon from Bill McLemore:
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4/10: Great piece
on government priorities
To the editor:
Excellent priorities piece, Andy! (Commentary,
4/10) I'd add one more. What would Jesus do if 62,445
S.C. teens were already addicted to smoking nicotine, if magazines
headed into school libraries were being purposefully flooded
with tobacco ads (after two decades of selective binding technology),
and point-of-sale tobacco ads hanging above candy racks at
neighborhood convenience stores across SC were not there by
If addiction to smoking nicotine truly is our state's #1
killer, and 90% of all new smokers are getting hooked are
children or teens, what did it say about moral values when
during 2004 our Governor, Lt. Governor, and Attorney General
each accepted thousands of dollars in campaign contributions
from the industry doing the killing? What does it say when
both our Senate President and House Speaker have their hands
permanently planted in a money jar filled with dependency,
decay, disease and death?
What would Jesus do if it were against SC law for police
to take cigarettes away from a twelve year-old smoker who
was smoking while sharing them with other students just off
school grounds? What would Jesus do if the fine for selling
a lifetime of nicotine addiction to his children was only
$25, and even then the law was never enforced?
It isn't by chance that SC has the second lowest life expectancy
in America, nor chance that we have the 3rd highest youth
smoking rate. It's time for our state's key leaders to assume
full responsibility for continuing to intentionally foster
community climates that breed youth nicotine dependency. What
would Jesus do?
-- John R. Polito, Mount Pleasant, SC
on you, Andy Brack
To the editor:
You ask "what would Jesus do?" (Commentary,
4/10) How would you or the typical liberal politician
, especially one from Clarendon County, have any idea of how
South Carolina remains poor , remains last in most good things
and first in most bad things due to liberal democrats who
work to stop any progress in this state and indeed in our
Nation as well.
Just look at Clarendon County, yes, we have much poverty,
we have many, many uneducated citizens. Many are no better
off than their ancestors were 150 years ago. Why?, liberal
politicians collect the tax dollars but spend it unwisely.
You complain about a reduction in state income tax of $130
million , you look at it as taking money out ? , how foolish
you are. In truth this "cut" is too small. It should
have been for $700 million and applied to every taxpayer ,
not just small business. This $750 million would create more
jobs , grow our weak economy , and give our citizens more
money and less government. You liberals just cannot accept
the concept of less government, Look around you , in most
Areas across this nation liberalism has lost. Look at the
'red map' . see Andy , every "Red State" rejects
your agenda. Tax cuts do not take money out , they give money
back to the citizens....
Class warfare , Race warfare, Anti Religious positions ,
A.C.L.U. supporters, some cases Anti American positions, this
describes the liberal agenda. America has and will continue
to reject this agenda . I cannot answer your question "What
would Jesus do", I am not worthy to speak for my Savior
. I can speak loudly as to what liberals have done and are
trying to do. Just look over the past 70 years , from F.D.R.
to Jimmy Carter , to Willie Clinton , from liberal members
of our house and senate to the liberal members on our Supreme
Court, what do you see ? the brutal power of Big Government,
The attack on all Religions , the destruction of our most
innocent life from abortion to starving to death a life most
Liberalism is the most violent , most anti religious form
of government on the face of this earth. It is also the most
dangerous because it hides behind a mask of respectability
, even posing as being religious, yet like a cancer seeks
to destroy all that it touches.
-- Lew Richards, Manning , SC
In this new section, we will keep track of Statehouse Report's
record of forecasting what goes on in the legislature. For
example, at the beginning of the year, a commentary called
for no roads to be named for living officials. Sixteen days
later, House Speaker David Wilkins introduced such a measure.
SOUTH CAROLINA SCORECARD
Here's a "thumbs up" and "thumbs down" related to various
political events from the past week:
Vouchers. Even though the governor's much-desired
voucher plan is on tap for discussion in the coming week in
the House Ways and Means Committee, the recent report showing
it would cost $500 million may be the last nail in its coffin
this year. It also didn't help that The State ran a
story Thursday that passing the voucher bill would cost $15
million for firefighters.
Talley. While Rep. Scott Talley has come up with some
lame-brained ideas, we like his proposal to give tax credits
to developers who reuse or redevelop big-box stores that become
Sanford. We always thought there was too much meddling
with Santee Cooper. Now we know it's true.
Altman. Rep. John Graham Altman has been on a tear
lately -- with proposals to scuttle the SCETV board and to
allow counties to secede for property tax reasons. This is
rhetoric taken too far. Come on.
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