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For a healthier Florida, boost tobacco tax

For healthier Florida, boost tobacco tax

Our state now has a rare opportunity to improve the health of our citizens while simultaneously providing a recurring funding source for critical medical programs. The Senate has taken the lead, and it's time for the House to navigate a new course: support the surcharge on tobacco products to pay for smoking-related health care costs in Florida, and direct surcharge revenue toward Medicaid programs.

No one can argue that smoking is a major public health problem. All smokers face an increased risk of lung cancer, other lung diseases, and cardiovascular and other disorders.

Smoking during pregnancy can harm the health of both a woman and her unborn baby. According to the U.S. Public Health Service, if all pregnant women in this country stopped smoking, there would be an estimated 11 percent reduction in stillbirths and 5 percent reduction in newborn deaths.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cigarette smoking is responsible for about $167 billion in annual health- related economic losses in the United States — $75 billion in direct medical costs and $92 billion in lost productivity or about $3,561 per adult smoker.

Increasing the cigarette tax has the added benefit of being one of the most effective ways of decreasing and preventing teen smoking. Other states that have increased their cigarette tax have demonstrated a 7 percent reduction in smokers under the age of 18 with each 10 percent increase added to the cigarette tax. An additional dollar a pack tax may serve to price cigarettes out of the hands of Florida's children.

The numbers are staggering, and the potential impact on Florida's children is sobering. We encourage citizens and lawmakers alike to support the tobacco tax and direct proceeds to programs we can't afford to lose.

Michael D. Aubin, administrator and chief operating officer, St. Joseph's Children's Hospital of Tampa

GOP power grab is an affront to voters April 19, editorial

GOP stoops low in trying

to curb voting rights

How low will the GOP go to try to win back the White House? Depriving voters of early access to voting booths and not allowing certain IDs for the elderly are wrong. These options benefit all of the people for a democratic election. The passage of this law without any debate is absurd. Is this what they have to do to steal another election? I guess. The people are wise to these tactics, and believe me they will pay dearly for what they have done in 2010.

This comes after a day in which the former head of the Florida House is indicted for corruption along with a crony for misuse of taxpayers funds. The GOP is in deep trouble. Continued corruption and bad ideas about how to run the state and the country are diminishing their power rapidly. Now they have to stoop so low as to try and keep voters from having their constitutional rights taken away at the polls.

If they keep this up there will be no GOP.

Joyce Zanone, Parrish

It ain't the apple, it's the whole barrel April 19, Howard Troxler column

Voters share the blame

Howard Troxler has shown outrage — as we all should — at the latest antics of our Florida Legislature. But it is we as voters who are as guilty as our representatives because we continue to re-elect them. The misdeeds of the senior members of the Legislature and the slick steps they make to move special interest bills are appalling.

Our elected representatives serve special interests and deep-pocketed contributors so that they can have funds for re-election campaigns. Once they taste power, they crave it for the doors it opens and the money that is sure to follow.

Instead of taking them to task, we send them back again and again. At least Florida has term limits, but that itself creates the atmosphere for some of the shady deals we hear about daily. In their quest to move to the top levels of power, they start cutting deals the first day they are sworn in. We like it when the bring back projects and money, and refuse to acknowledge that our representative is part of this corrupt system. Its always the other ones, not ours.

We should run them all out of office at the next local, state and federal election, but with gerrymandering as it exists, this will be virtually impossible. Our elected representatives need to hear our dissatisfaction loud and clear.

Dale Gottschalk, Hudson

It ain't the apple, it's the whole barrel April 19, Howard Troxler column

Time to wake up

As I read Howard Troxler's article, it again confirmed what the "silent majority" has long accepted as fact: The current leadership in both state and federal government and their respective political parties are indeed a sorry lot. Their focus remains on self, period. Their approval ratings reflect this fact.

There are two real issues here: 1. When will the "silent majority" regain their voices and intestinal fortitude and "kick the bums out"? 2. How can we get proven leaders, men and women who have demonstrated personal and professional character, integrity, honesty and morality to run for political office? Our country desperately needs them.

Perhaps the various "tea parties" held across the United States last week to protest this very thing are the beginning. Kudos to Troxler for stating the facts and trying to wake us up!

Richard Morrow, Treasure Island

An Open Letter to Our Legislators | April 20

Who is protected?

This advertisement generated more questions than answers to me as a consumer. I have not noticed a lack of competition in the telecommunications industry with all of the newspaper and television ads. Do we really need more deregulation? I believe we have had enough of that with the collapse of the housing market and the financial institutions.

As a former vice president of communications for the United Way of Pinellas County, I am appalled to see that the United Way of Northwest Florida would use its funds to help pay for this ad instead of providing services to those in need in their community. I am wondering if this use of donations would jeopardize their nonprofit status?

I'm not surprised to see that AT&T, which has contributed the second largest amount of money to legislators' campaigns this year, is supporting these bills. There must be a great deal of additional profit to the telecommunication companies at stake.

It really makes a person question the Consumer Choice and Protection Act. Could an act with that name really be not good for the consumer?

Lois Herron, St. Petersburg

Curb rising population

It is encouraging to see the green movement gather such momentum. Reducing one's footprint has become all the rage. The new administration is prioritizing conservation and renewable energy. People of all walks of life are taking action. Even the economy is helping, although inadvertently, with the death of consumerism.

But unless world population growth is halted, all other positive steps we take do nothing more than delay the inevitable consequences of overpopulation: mass starvation from food shortages, lack of water and outbreak of deadly infectious disease.

We should continue minimizing our impact as much as possible, but from world leaders to every individual, we must recognize the need to address population growth if we truly wish to save the world.

Chip Thomas, Tampa

For a healthier Florida, boost tobacco tax 04/21/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 21, 2009 7:10pm]
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