Legislature(1995 - 1996)
05/01/1996 11:13 AM FIN
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SENATE BILL NO. 210 An Act relating to taxes on cigarettes and tobacco products; and providing for an effective date. Co-chairman Halford directed that SB 210 be brought on for discussion. SENATOR JOHNNY ELLIS came before committee advising that the bill has broad public support which spans the political and philosophical spectrum. It even enjoys majority support among nicotine users in Alaska. The legislation also has "enormous health implications" and fiscal ramifications for the state in terms of revenues and health care costs. Senator Ellis advised that he sponsored the bill as a major health issue, especially as it relates to young people. He referenced backup materials and urged passage of the bill. Senator Randy Phillips referenced CSSB 210 (STA) and noted inclusion of intent language calling for allocation of new revenues from the tax as follows: 1. 10 percent for an anti-tobacco campaign targeting children. 2. 10 percent for prosecution of those who sell or supply tobacco to children. 3. 80 percent for state support of elementary and secondary education. and asked if the sponsor agreed with the foregoing. Senator Ellis responded affirmatively. He noted, however, that as intent, the language would not be binding on future legislatures. FORMER SENATOR GLENN HACKNEY next came before committee and voiced support for the bill. He asked that it be viewed as a health issue rather than a revenue measure. Mr. Hackney next attested to the variety of methods utilized by those attempting to stop smoking. One of the most effective means of discouraging young people from smoking is the price of the product. Cost discourages children from starting and encourages active smokers to quit. The American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society, and the American Lung Association support the bill. The agenda for all three organizations is health and the saving of lives. Seventy-one out of one hundred Alaskan constituents support the legislation. Mr. Hackney urged support and passage. DON DAPCEVICH, Director, Advisory Board on Alcohol and Drug Abuse, next came before committee in support of the bill. He concurred in comments by former Senator Hackney that the legislation should be viewed as a prevention effort rather than a revenue issue. Lessons can be learned from statistics evidencing what happened when the cost of tobacco was increased in Canada. Cost increases reduce use, especially among young people. Mr. Dapcevich further attested to the correlation between tobacco use and other drug use. He urged passage of the proposed bill, reiterating that it represents a strong prevention effort. In his closing remarks, he voiced support for intent language within CSSB 210 (STA) and praised dedication of moneys for both prevention and intervention efforts through the Dept. of Public Safety. ANNE MARIE HOLEN, Citizens to Protect Kids from Tobacco, next came before committee in support of the bill. She explained that the group she represents is a coalition that includes the American Cancer Society of Alaska, the American Lung Association, the American Heart Association, Alaska State Medical Association, Nurses Association, Association of Alaska School Boards, and many other groups. She referenced correspondence to Senate President Pearce and House Speaker Gail Phillips from former surgeon general C. Everett Koop. Dr. Koop is so busy and in such demand that he rarely responds to requests for assistance such as that from Alaska. He made an exception in this case because he feels what is attempting to be done is important for both the state and the nation. Tobacco control experts are in agreement that the federal government should raise its cigarette tax to $2.00 per pack or higher, and every state should raise its tax to at least $1.00 per pack. Alaska would be the first to do that and would set a positive example for other states to follow. Dr. Koop noted that the foregoing could ultimately save millions of lives. Ms. Holen next quoted from an article written by Dr. Koop during the campaign for a 75-cent increase in the federal cigarette tax from the current 24-cents: Senators and Congressmen should be happy to find a tax that is actually popular. Polls show that almost 80 percent of Americans (Republicans and Democrats, young and old, men and women) support a large cigarette tax. So those members of Congress elected on a no new taxes pledge can go along with this one. Cigarette taxes are indeed different. Constituents do not understand why any legislator would balk at imposition of this tax. This tax is different. Ms. Holen asked that members recognize the serious nature of tobacco--the leading cause of death in Alaska. It has tremendous economic impact, draining hundreds of millions from the economy each year. She urged that members become part of the solution to the problem by supporting passage of SB 210. In her closing remarks, she asked how often members have the opportunity to enact legislation that saves thousands of lives, raises revenue, and enjoys support from a vast majority of constituents. Senator Sharp MOVED for passage of CSSB 210 (STA) with individual recommendations and accompanying fiscal notes. No objection having been raised, CSSB 210 (STA) was REPORTED OUT of committee with a fiscal note from the Dept. of Revenue showing a cost of $63.6 and projected revenue of $33,426.8. Co-chairman Frank and Senators Rieger and Sharp signed the committee report with a "do pass" recommendation. Co-chairman Halford and Senators Donley, Phillips, and Zharoff signed "no recommendation."