EXTRA EDITION: Saturday Laryngectomy Rant
By Doug Porter
The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Lung Association in California and American Heart Association have placed Prop 56 on the ballot increasing taxes on tobacco products and updating state law to include e-cigarettes as a taxable product.
The tobacco industry has amassed a $56 million dollar war chest to defeat Prop 56. They know arguing in favor of tobacco use won’t work, so they’ve unleashed a blizzard of bullcrap advertising seeking to confuse and obfuscate the matter.
The really big lie is that Prop 56 somehow cheats schools out of $600 million. Politifact, to nobody’s surprise, found this claim mostly false, in that they took a small element of truth and repurposed it.
It’s all lies all the time. The tobacco companies want you to think that discouraging smoking with a steep tax is some kind of scam. The fact is, it works. Raising the price of things that are not good for us discourages consumption.
These companies are doing their best to make how the taxes are to be spent an issue. Personally, I don’t care if the state takes the revenues collected and throws them off a cliff.
It’s worth noting that the big soda companies are borrowing tactics from tobacco in fighting taxes on sweet drinks. Mexicans are drinking fewer sodas. So are people in Berkeley. So now the sweet drink industrial complex is peddling stories saying that since obesity hasn’t disappeared the tax is a failure.
Smoke ‘em If You’ve Got ‘em.
The battle here isn’t about smoking or vaping. I don’t care and don’t mind people choosing to consume tobacco. Some of my best friends are smokers. Really.
Prop 56 is about fighting a war with the worst aspects of consumer capitalism. The companies marketing these products are pure evil. Their experience at ‘marketing’ is being used by dirty energy, drug pushers, and the poison food industry to encourage a host of bad behaviors. It’s time to fight back.
This is personal for me. I beat their Marlboro-flavored cancer but lost my vocal chords in 2012. I don’t blame the tobacco companies for what I did to myself. I blame them for continuing to market their products 50 years after convincing evidence emerged about their toxicity.
I believe I’m making the best of life post vocal chords. I’ve met lots of other people who haven’t been blessed the way I have.
Every couple of months or so, us “larys” in Southern California (people who’ve had laryngectomies) get together in a room at a local medical center. There are about 50,000 of us nationwide; I’ve probably met about 25 locally. There are lots of challenges and it’s helpful to be with others who are on the same path.
At our last meeting, a tall and handsome man joined the group. He couldn’t speak yet as he was awaiting a prostheisis, but had a companion who spoke on his behalf. It turns out he was one of the original Marlboro men (four of them have died over the years from smoking-related causes).
The LA Times reports that they were sometimes required to smoke as many as five packs a day while shooting commercials. The Marlboro Man and his buddy Joe Camel rode off into the sunset in 1998, thanks to the Master Settlement between tobacco companies and state attorneys general, which forbade the companies to use humans or cartoons on tobacco advertising in the U.S.
Rather than have one pathway running down our body, we larys have separate passages for breathing and eating. The good news is you can’t choke to death on food anymore. The bad news is the remaining passageway to the stomach is so small that swallowing is a challenge.
The other passageway leads to the lungs from a hole at the base of the neck. Breathing can get interesting, especially when volatile oils are in the air (roasting hatch chiles without major precautions is probably a bad idea.)
If larys are lucky and the radiation doesn’t cause too much damage, the surgeon who removes the cancerous tissue goes back in and pokes a hole in the tissue, allowing for a voicing prosthesis to be installed.
I’m one of the lucky ones; while phone conversations are a challenge (handy when direct marketers call), people can usually understand me if I’m close enough. And if I’m having a good day. (It’s not terribly reliable)
Speaking through a plastic value creates a host of social challenges. People are often repulsed by what they don’t understand. I tend to avoid crowds (because I can’t always speak loudly or clearly) and am not comfortable meeting strangers. Lucky for me, I have a wonderful network of friends and family.
So that’s my rant.
If raising the tax on tobacco products keeps one person from starting or encourages one person to quit using it will be worth it.
Since how the money is to be spent is being raised as an issue by the No on 56 propagandists, here’s a summary from Ballotpedia:
How would new revenue be distributed?
Revenue from the $2.00 tax levied by Proposition 56 would be distributed through a four-step process:
- Step 1: use new revenue to replace old revenue lost due to lower tobacco consumption resulting from tobacco tax increase.
- Step 2: use next five percent of revenue to pay the costs of administering the tax.
- Step 3: allocate $48 million to enforcing tobacco laws, $40 million to physician training to increase the number of primary care and emergency physicians in the state, $30 million towards preventing and treating dental diseases, and $400 thousand to the California State Auditor to audit funds from the new tax.
- Step 4: allocate 82 percent of remaining funds towards services related to Medi-Cal, 11 percent of remaining funds towards tobacco-use prevention, 5 percent of remaining funds towards research into cancer, heart and lung diseases, and other tobacco-related diseases, and 2 percent of remaining funds towards school programs focusing on tobacco-use prevention and reduction
For More Information
Ballot Language – CIGARETTE TAX TO FUND HEALTHCARE, TOBACCO USE PREVENTION, RESEARCH, AND LAW ENFORCEMENT. INITIATIVE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT AND STATUTE.
Increases cigarette tax by $2.00 per pack, with equivalent increase on other tobacco products and electronic cigarettes containing nicotine. Fiscal Impact: Additional net state revenue of $1 billion to $1.4 billion in 2017–18, with potentially lower revenues in future years. Revenues would be used primarily to augment spending on health care for low–income Californians.
Polling: A Field poll released on September 27 shows likely voters favoring Prop 56, 53% to 40%, with 7% undecided.
For information on the November 2016 General Election, see our San Diego 2016 Progressive Voter Guide
Other San Diego Free Press coverage of the 2016 general election.
Tomorrow: (Monday) Prop 57 – Gov. Brown’s criminal justice reform. We’ll be writing about various state and local contests Monday-Friday for the next three weeks.
On This Day: 1903 – The first modern World Series took place between the Boston Pilgrims and the Pittsburgh Pirates. 1940 – The Pennsylvania Turnpike opened as the first toll superhighway in the United States. It was built in most part by workers hired through the state’s Re-Employment offices. 1964 – The Free Speech Movement was started at the University of California at Berkeley.
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