Tag Archives: tobacco

Democrat proposes cigarette tax increase to cover state cost of Medicaid expansion

State Rep. Gary Odom, D-Nashville, today filed a bill that would increase Tennessee’s cigarette tax by 44 cents per pack (or 2.2 cents per cigarette, as the bill states), which he figures would be enough to cover the cost of Medicaid Expansion.

He had outlined the premise of the measure (HB2096) earlier, acknowledging prospect for passage by the anti-tax Republican supermajority are not good. (There’s not yet a Senate sponsor.) Excerpt from the Tennessean story:

Odom says the tax increase would raise about $175 million a year, more than enough to offset the state’s eventual share of TennCare expansion, while also taking aim at the harmful effects of smoking.

Tennessee now collects 62 cents a pack on cigarettes, the 13th-lowest rate in the nation.
For nearly two years, Democrats have called for offering TennCare, the state’s Medicaid program, to 175,000 more poor Tennesseans under the Affordable Care Act. They argue Tennessee should not turn away pledges from the federal government to pick up the full tab for expansion until 2017 and 90 percent or more through 2020, a promise that would bring about $1 billion a year into the state.

But Republicans in the state legislature have focused on the approximately $170 million that Tennessee would have to pick up eventually. They say that money could come only from spending cuts or higher taxes, and they question whether the federal government will live up to its promises.

“I think there are so many unanswered questions about ‘Obamacare’ that you would be nuts to say here we go, not knowing what five years or three years or two years is going to look like,” said Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville.

Note: Odom appears to be responding as well to recent comments by House Speaker Beth Harwell, who said Democrats favoring Medicaid expansion should be “intellectually honest” and explain either what taxes they would raise or what programs they would cut to cover the projected cost to the state after 100 percent federal financing ends.

There’s a line in the bill that, one suspects, invites GOP outrage, declaring state government will “cooperate with the appropriate federal department in any reasonable manner as may be necessary to qualify for federal aid in connection with the medical assistance program and to implement the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.”

Cooper, other state AGs, push fed regulation of e-cigarettes

News release from state attorney general’s office:
Tennessee Attorney General Bob Cooper has joined 37 other attorneys general asking the FDA to place restrictions on advertising and sales to minors and ingredients contained in electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes), which are growing increasingly popular as alternatives to traditional tobacco products.

The Attorneys General expressed their concerns in a bipartisan letter co-sponsored by the Massachusetts and Ohio Attorneys General asking the FDA to take all available measures to regulate e-cigarettes as “tobacco products” under the Tobacco Control Act. E-cigarettes, an increasingly widespread product that is growing rapidly among both youth and adults, are battery-operated products that heat liquid nicotine, derived from tobacco plants, into a vapor that is inhaled by the user.

State Attorneys General have fought for years to protect people from the dangers of tobacco products. In 1998, the attorneys general of 52 states and territories signed a landmark agreement with the four largest tobacco companies in the United States to recover billions of dollars in costs associated with smoking-related illnesses, and restrict cigarette advertising to prevent youth smoking.

Unlike traditional tobacco products, there are no federal age restrictions that would prevent children from obtaining e-cigarettes. Noting the growing use of e-cigarettes, and the growing prevalence of advertising, the letter highlights the need to protect youth from becoming addicted to nicotine through these new products.

“We are always concerned when a potentially dangerous product is being sold to the public without regulation,” Attorney General Cooper said. “This is especially alarming when companies attract youth to addictive products through advertising.”
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Bill Bans Tobacco, Tattoo Equipment In Jails

Smuggling or possessing tobacco and tattoo-making equipment at a state prison or local jail would be a crime under legislation introduced by two Hamilton County lawmakers, reports the Chattanooga TFP.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Todd Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga, and Rep. Mike Carter, R-Ooltewah, (HB1165) updates and adds to the list of items deemed contraband under state law. The legislation applies not only to prisoners but everyone coming into the facility.
Carter said Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hammond, a member of the Tennessee Sheriffs’ Association’s legislative committee, brought the bill to the lawmakers.
An attorney and former judge, Carter said he can see the need for the legislation and is happy to sponsor it.
“Cigarettes are the currency for corruption in jails,” said Carter, also a one-time top assistant to former Hamilton County Mayor Claude Ramsey.
Hammond said current law needs updating to cover emerging problems.
“We stopped smoking a long time ago,” Hammond said. Prisoners are prohibited from using tobacco products in prisons and jails. “But you still get it as contraband. This will not only assist us in dealing with the prisoners but in the event — and I’m not saying it has happened anytime lately — we had an officer who was slipping it into the jail.”
Hammond said the “biggest issue for us lately is the tattoo stuff, homemade tattoo equipment where you sit around and tattoo everybody from A to Z.”

Senate Approves ‘Roll-Your-Own’ Tax Bill

The Senate has approved legislation that would increase taxes on cigarettes made with “roll-your-own” machines to more closely align with taxes on packaged cigarettes.
The sponsor of SB1738, Republican Sen. Jack Johnson of Franklin, said it is a “matter of simple fairness” to the manufacturers and sellers of regular cigarettes. As things stand now, he said, a 10-pack carton of roll-your-own cigarettes, processed in about eight minutes with a machine, goes for about $25 compared to about $50 for manufactured cigarettes.
Much of the Senate floor debate was devoted to when the proposed new law – which still needs House approval — should take effect. Ultimately, the senators settled on July 1, 2013. The bill was then approved 25-5.
Johnson said the delay would allow businesses owning the cigarette processing machines – 85 of them statewide at last count – a reasonable time to prepare for compliance with the change in law.

MTSU, State Health Dept. Launch Anti-Tobacco Project

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (AP) — Middle Tennessee State University and the state are teaming up for a statewide initiative to discourage tobacco use.
The school’s Center for Health and Human Services and the Tennessee Department of Health will be partners in the project.
The initiative is to build a grass-roots network of community advocates for tobacco-use control policies at the local, regional and state levels.
According to a news release Tuesday from the university, the project also will launch an information campaign to educate the public about the dangers of secondhand smoke.

MTSU Becomes Tobacco-Free Campus

MTSU is joining other institutions across the state and nation in establishing a tobacco-free policy that will restrict the use of all forms of tobacco on its property, reports the Daily News Journal.
It’s a mandate not everyone is happy about. Megan Richter, an MTSU junior from Fayetteville who minors in art, said the change will be “hard on art students,” in particular.
“They put in long hours. They are up so long (because) they have to wait on things to dry,” she said. “They’ve got three-hour studios. People smoke.” Richter has been smoking since high school. “I enjoy the act of smoking; holding a cigarette,” she said.
Instead of more tobacco campus restrictions, Richter prefers more smoking spots outdoors on campus or for existing ash trays to be relocated.
MTSU President Sidney McPhee, in an online statement to the MTSU community, said the current policy allows smoking outdoors, 20 feet away from doorways, windows, ventilation, systems, walkways and gates. But the new restrictions will ban tobacco use regardless of whether you are inside or outside a campus building.