Letter: In the pocket of Big Tobacco

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Why did Reps. Dave Baker and Tim Miller and Sen. Andrew Lang vote in favor of the big tobacco companies and against the health of our children?

These three Republicans each voted at least twice to follow the wishes of Big Tobacco to freeze the tobacco tax, which has the effect of lowering that tax over time. The cigarette industry must continually recruit new smokers to replace the smokers that their product kills off.

We know that high cigarette taxes deter young people from starting to smoke. These are the people that the merchants of death need to recruit to replace older smokers who die earlier than nonsmokers. High cigarette taxes also encourage smokers to stop. No wonder Big Tobacco wanted this legislation in order to protect its future products.

On May 25, Baker and Miller voted along with other Republicans to freeze the cigarette tax and lower the tax on premium cigars from $3.50 to 50 cents (House File-1, Article 9 at page 45).

On May 10, they voted for the same tax freeze as part of a bill that Gov. Dayton subsequently vetoed (House File-4). Andrew Lang voted for the same freeze in the Senate.

Minnesota Health Commissioner Dr. Ed Ehlinger stated that the freeze will cost the state nearly $50 million in lost revenue over the next four years, that more than 6,300 Minnesotans die every year from smoking-related illnesses, and that smoking costs Minnesotans more than $3 billion each year in excess health care costs.

The June 10 edition of this paper reported that one cigarette company, Altria, the parent of Phillip Morris, alone spent nearly $500,000 last year on lobbying in Minnesota, including payments of $75,000 to one Republican-affiliated group.

Remember how well your representatives represented your values when you vote in 2018.

John H. Burns

Willmar