Public health's newest hero
That would be Sen. Ted Deutch of Boca Raton, sponsor of the Senate bill to raise the cigarette tax by $1 a pack and steer all of the new money ($1-billion or more a year) to public health causes such as cancer research, KidCare, health coverage for the uninsured and reducing the number of premature and low birthweight babies in Florida.
"This is a public health bill," Deutsch said. His bill (SB 2790) passed the Senate Health Policy Committee Tuesday on a 4-1 vote, with two Republicans, Victor Crist and Paula Dockery, joining Democrats Mandy Dawson and Arthenia Joyner in supporting the tax (Republican Charlie Dean voted no). But the tax is seen as black-flag dead in the Legislature, with four more committee stops in the Senate alone. The House version hasn't been heard, and Gov. Charlie Crist repeated that he would veto it if it did pass.
It might be worth quoting from one sentence in the Senate staff analysis of Deutch's bill: "More deaths are caused each year by tobacco use than by all deaths from HIV, illegal drug use, alcohol use, motor vehicle injuries, suicides and murders combined." (Source: Centers for Disease Control).
"The citizens of this state are going to come to grips with the extent of these budget cuts," Deutch told reporters, "and they're going to demand that the Legislature look at other revenue options."