Legislature(1995 - 1996)

03/14/1996 03:31 PM STA

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
txt
                                                                               
                SB 210 INCREASE TOBACCO TAXES                                
                                                                               
               SB 234 INCREASE TOBACCO TAXES                                
                                                                              
 TAPE 96-20, SIDE A                                                            
                                                                               
 Number 001                                                                    
                                                                               
 CHAIRMAN SHARP called the Senate State Affairs Committee to order             
 at 3:31 p.m. and brought up SB 210 and SB 234 as the first order of           
 business before the committee.  The chairman called Senator Ellis             
 to testify.                                                                   
                                                                               
 Number 015                                                                    
                                                                               
 SENATOR JOHNNY ELLIS, prime sponsor of SB 210, read the sponsor               
 statement for SB 210.  Under this proposal, cigarettes would be               
 taxed at a rate of $1.29 per pack through FY99.  From FY00 through            
 FY02, cigarettes would be taxed at $1.53 per pack.  From FY03                 
 through FY05, cigarettes would be taxed at a rate of $1.77 per                
 pack.  Thereafter, the increments increase progressively at the               
 rate of $0.24 per pack at intervals of three years.  The tax for              
 smokeless tobacco will increase from 25% of the wholesale price to            
 100% of the wholesale price of those products.  This bill differs             
 from the Long-Range Financial Planning Commission's legislation in            
 that it inflation-proofs the tax levied.  Senator Ellis hopes that            
 SB 210 and SB 234 will move on to the Finance Committee, and they             
 will have a debate there about the financial aspects of the                   
 legislation.  It is estimated that $43,000,000.00 will be raised in           
 FY 97 by SB 210.                                                              
                                                                               
 SENATOR ELLIS stated there would be no additional paperwork for               
 business people and no new forms or bureaucracy: the tax would                
 continue to be collected at the wholesale level.  The support for             
 this bill is very strong among smokers.  Many people have mentioned           
 to him that this bill would be a help to them in quitting smoking.            
 And maybe we can stop some children from starting smoking.  Senator           
 Ellis stated that the cost to government caused by smoking-related            
 illness is enormous.  Current taxation levels don't come close to           
 paying for costs to government, so we cannot complain about the               
 rising health-care costs to government, when cigarettes are                   
 responsible for much of those costs and are not recouped through              
 taxation.  He asked that the committee look favorably on SB 210.              
                                                                               
 Number 115                                                                    
                                                                               
 SENATOR RANDY PHILLIPS asked Senator Ellis if he would be                     
 interested in dedicating part or all of the revenues from SB 210 to           
 education or health.                                                          
                                                                               
 SENATOR ELLIS responded he is completely open to any suggestions,             
 but there may be a constitutional problem with dedicated funds and            
 tampering with the pre-statehood dedicated school tax fund.                   
                                                                               
 SENATOR RANDY PHILLIPS thinks it might require a constitutional               
 amendment.                                                                    
                                                                               
 Number 130                                                                    
                                                                               
 CHAIRMAN SHARP stated the committee would take public testimony on            
 SB 210 and SB 234 and continue until the committee gets a quorum.             
 At that time, the committee will set that legislation aside to                
 adopt committee substitutes for SB 231 and SB 222.  He called Dr.             
 Palmer to testify.                                                            
                                                                               
 Number 145                                                                    
                                                                               
 DR. WILLIAM PALMER informed the committee that he just left his               
 office, where he's dealing with a woman whose respiratory rate is             
 greater than her heart rate.  She's still smoking, of course.  But            
 it will kill her; there's not any question about that.   He stated            
 that when he came to Juneau in 1973, he was stepping into a corner            
 of the operative suite, putting his hands behind his back and                 
 coughing uncontrollably.  That's when he quit smoking.  Part of the           
 reason was he buried two women under 50 years of age who died on              
 ventilators at Bartlett Memorial Hospital because they could not              
 oxygenate themselves any longer.  Neither of them died of cancer;             
 they just died from one of those other "minor" problems that                  
 cigarette smokers get.                                                        
                                                                               
 DR. PALMER stated he is personally outraged at the cynicism in the            
 United States at shipping tobacco overseas.  The mendacity of the             
 cigarette selling industry in this country is absolutely beyond the           
 pale.  He has people he is burying; having been here since 1973,              
 these are no longer patients, in a community of this size, these              
 are friends, relatives, and neighbors.  Anything that can be done             
 to redress what's been going on...he thinks this is a wonderful               
 place from which to start.  Dr. Palmer stated that he is the                  
 recipient of a moderate amount of funds from the state, and an                
 awful lot of those funds are coming from the ravages of cigarette             
 smoking.  If health-care is going to be addressed at any level,               
 this seems like a good place to start.                                        
                                                                               
 Number 200                                                                    
                                                                               
 GLENN HACKNEY, American Cancer Society, former state senator,                 
 stated it is a switch being on the testifying end of things.  He              
 stated that the legislation before the committee might not be                 
 viewed as purely a tax bill, but as a health bill or preventive               
 medicine.  One of the costs of smoking is the 420,000 some lives              
 that are lost each year to smoking-related illnesses.  These                  
 statistics present a dilemma for the tobacco companies: their                 
 customers insist on dying, as Dr. Palmer pointed out.  Somewhere              
 there has to be a replenishment pool of customers.  The unfortunate           
 fact is that young people are the ideal market.  Statistics show              
 that one of the best preventive methods to keep young people from             
 taking up smoking is the cost of the product.  If young people can            
 be kept from smoking until they reach about 19 years of age, they             
 are liable not to start smoking.  Mr. Hackney stated he started             
 smoking at the age of twenty during wartime when the cigarettes               
 were free.  This bill would help kids not to smoke.  There are                
 about 50 or 60 kids who gather across from Lathrop High School to             
 smoke.  A good hard-headed approach would say, "Get some police               
 officers up there and round up those young rascals and haul them              
 off to jail."  It doesn't work like that.  The trick is, that they            
 don't get started.                                                            
                                                                               
 MR. HACKNEY stated that most of the people at this hearing are off            
 the streets: they are not professional lobbyists, they're not                 
 professional speakers.  He well remembers that lobbyists, like                
 bikers, are everywhere.  There was a gentleman by the name of                 
 Crawford who is a lobbyist for the major cigarette companies, and             
 he made the statement that it was his job to stop any bill that had           
 anything to do with preventing smoking.                                       
                                                                               
 MR. HACKNEY stated that legislators have a chance to do something             
 for their young constituents.  He has heard people down here say,             
 "We're not going to do anything as far as raising taxes, raising              
 more money, until we get spending under control."  Mr. Hackney                
 suggested that the tobacco tax increase bills be advanced.  He                
 believes the bills have wide support in the senate.  If the bill              
 gets over to the House Rules Committee, and the spending cuts don't           
 take place, let it die.  If the cuts do take place, then pass it.           
 You will be doing a favor to your constituents.                               
                                                                               
 SENATOR RANDY PHILLIPS asked Mr. Hackney about dedicating revenue             
 raised by this legislation.  Would he support something like that?            
                                                                               
 MR. HACKNEY responded that it is a cumbersome and somewhat                    
 unnecessary process.  He doesn't believe it needs to be done.  He             
 trusts the legislature to spend the money the right way.  He                  
 doesn't thinks a dedicated fund is necessary.                                 
                                                                               
 Number 298                                                                    
                                                                               
 STEVEN HAMILTON, Research Analyst, Governor's Advisory Board on               
 Alcoholism & Drug Abuse, Department of Health & Social Services,              
 stated that tobacco and tobacco products are gateway drugs,                   
 particularly for young people, and there is a positive correlation            
 between demand and willingness to pay in price.  For those reasons,           
 the advisory board strongly supports SB 210.  We support increased            
 excise taxes on tobacco products in general, but like the built-in            
 adjustment for inflation in SB 210.  Mr. Hamilton's experience in             
 running chemical dependency treatment centers is that in virtually            
 every single case in which they saw adolescents who were addicted,            
 they were smokers and they started with tobacco products.  The                
 advisory board strongly supports SB 210.                                      
                                                                               
 Number 313                                                                    
                                                                               
 TERESA LYONS, Fairbanks District of the Alaska Nurses Association,            
 testifying from Fairbanks, supports SB 210 and or SB 234.  She                
 supports the tobacco tax as a mechanism to influence use,                     
 particularly focusing on choices of Alaskan youth.  Nicotine is               
 considered an addictive substance that requires prescription by               
 physician or nurse practitioner for the use of Nicorette gum or               
 nicotine patches.  These products are used by smokers attempting to           
 wean themselves away from tobacco products.  Allowing cigarettes to           
 be available at minimal cost, while requiring prescriptions and               
 costly medication of the same substance sends a confusing message             
 to the youth of Alaska.  We have three levels of influence                    
 available to us to limit smoking to young people: education, which          
 is occurring; age limits, which are in place; and the cost of the          
 product, which has not been utilized to its' fullest.  The only              
 avenue available for the government to affect the price of a                  
 product is the use of taxation.  Ms. Lyons thinks that by not                 
 increasing the tobacco tax, we are sending a social and behavioral            
 message.  Legislators are being asked to use economic influence to            
 send the right message.  Please help to protect the health of our             
 children and our youth: move these bills out of committee and                 
 support the passage of an increased tobacco tax.                              
                                                                               
 Number 350                                                                    
                                                                               
 LOIS IRVIN, testifying from Homer, supports SB 210 and SB 234.  She           
 also supports the house versions of these bills, which don't seem             
 to be moving.  Therefore, she certainly supports SB 210.  She                 
 endorses what the previous speakers have said.  Ms. Irvin thinks              
 this legislation is very important.                                           
                                                                               
 Number 360                                                                    
                                                                               
 FRANCES YOUNG, testifying from Ketchikan, informed the committee              
 that she is the mother of eight children and involved with Alaskans           
 for Drug-free Youth.  She is also working with the Southeast Seven            
 Circles Coalition, which is addressing the issue of drugs and how             
 to reduce their use.  She supports either SB 210 or SB 234.  She              
 thinks the inflation proofing in SB 210 is a good idea.  She has              
 been told by smoking adults that the cost increase would help them            
 stop smoking.  She stated she also concurs with Dr. Palmer and                
 Glenn Hackney in that cost is a deterrent to smoking, especially              
 for children.  She urges the committee to resist the tobacco                  
 lobbyists and listen to the grass-roots people in the state.  Ms.             
 Young understands the problem with dedicating funds, but if there             
 are increased state revenues, maybe some of it could be used for              
 prevention of nicotine addiction.  Funds are also need to start               
 smoking cessation programs.  It is such a hard thing to quit                  
 smoking, and somehow we need to help those people who want to quit.           
 It would certainly help to have money for those types of programs.            
 She thinks this tax would be very helpful in many ways.                       
                                                                               
 CHAIRMAN SHARP agreed with Ms. Young that it is very hard to quit             
 smoking.  He stated he smoked for 19 years and was up to over three           
 packs a day.  His wife had to put up with him for a few months                
 after he quit.                                                                
                                                                               
 Number 393                                                                    
                                                                               
 DR. RODMAN WILSON, Executive Director, Alaska State Medical                   
 Association, stated all legislators will receive a copy of ASMA's             
 quarterly Journal, Alaska Medicine.  This issue will be totally             
 devoted to cigarettes.  He hopes legislators will have a chance to            
 look at the journal.  The association supports raising the tax on             
 tobacco and would support either SB 210 or SB 234, although SB 210            
 looks a little bit better to him.  Dr. Wilson stated when he was              
 the Public Health Director in the City of Anchorage in the mid-               
 eighties, he studied the contribution of tobacco toward deaths in             
 Anchorage and found, conservatively estimated, that 20% of all                
 deaths in Anchorage were directly attributable to tobacco.  The               
 state epidemiologist, John Middaugh, did a similar study from 1991-           
 1993 and came up with a 19% figure.  It's an enormous burden to               
 society, not just in terms of mortality, but also morbidity.   We             
 are very much in favor of raising taxes.  Raising taxes sharply               
 won't solve the problem with youngsters taking up the habit, but it           
 is a powerful, powerful tool, and we urge you to pass this                    
 legislation.  ASMA's interest in this legislation has nothing to do         
 with solving the fiscal crisis in Alaska: we want it done for its'            
 own sake.  In this country in this century alone, upwards of                  
 30,000,000 people will have died by the year 2000 from tobacco.  It           
 is a shame on our culture and society that when we began to know by           
 mid-century how terrible tobacco is, that we haven't done more than           
 we've done.  Here is your chance to do a little bit toward this               
 awful problem in Alaska.                                                      
                                                                               
 Number 433                                                                    
                                                                               
 DR. PETER MJOS, testifying from Anchorage, stated he serves on the            
 State Board of the American Heart Association.  Dr. Mjos stated               
 that disease, disability, disfigurement, and death are the true and           
 only legacy of tobacco.  If you disagree with that, then we should            
 all go home.  If you agree with that, then you must agree that                
 something must be done.  In his practice, he has seen disease                 
 across all generations, extending even from before conception and             
 certainly unto death.  What we are discussing is major public                 
 health legislation: this is not a tax issue, and should not be                
 construed as one.  To construe this as a tax issue would be merely            
 a "smoke screen".  Children start smoking; adults do not start                
 smoking.  Most surveys conducted in this country have used as a               
 demonstration figure $2.00 per pack of cigarettes.  Across all                
 demographic lines, there has been overwhelming support, with one              
 exception: smokers.  Experience in Canada and New Zealand has shown           
 that to raise the price of tobacco products markedly diminishes the           
 number of youngsters who will start smoking.  Dr. Mjos mentioned              
 the Ligget-Myers Corporation's multi-million dollar settlement with           
 states, which is occurring at this time.  There are enormous state            
 and federal expenditures involved in tobacco-related illness.  To             
 increase this tax will diminish the number of smokers and the                 
 amount of disease.                                                            
                                                                               
 Number 470                                                                    
                                                                               
 GENEVIEVE GAGNE-HAWES stated that in her health class, one of the             
 kids was talking about how stupid suicide was, and he couldn't see            
 why anyone would kill themself.  But that kid smokes.  He is slowly           
 killing himself with tobacco.  Adults don't start smoking; kids               
 start smoking, and kids get addicted.  Recent surveys show the                
 number of kids smoking is growing.  Ms. Gagne-Hawes stated that               
 money is behind the sale and purchase of tobacco.  The more                   
 something costs, the less likely teenagers will be to spend money             
 on it.  A $1.00 a pack increase will bring down the number of youth           
 smokers in Alaska by 32%.  74% of all Alaskans support this tax.              
 If kids want tobacco, they should have to pay more for it than they           
 are right now.  Because in the long run, it's costing them their              
 lives.                                                                        
                                                                               
 Number 505                                                                    
                                                                               
 JUSTINE MUENCH, President, Juneau District of the Alaska Nurses               
 Association, stated that the last twenty years of her career have             
 been in coronary care units, intensive care units, and a cardiac              
 and pulmonary rehabilitation center.  Every day she works with                
 people whose primary risk factor for being in a rehabilitation                
 center is that they have smoked.  Ms. Muench contended that smoking           
 is the only one, true preventable risk factor for cardio-vascular             
 disease.  The other top two, high blood pressure and high                     
 cholesterol level, have genetic predisposition.  Smoking does not;            
 it is a choice.  The public health toll for this habit is enormous.           
 She stated that the patients she sees every day all started smoking           
 in their teens.  She sees very few patients with cardio-vascular              
 disease who have never smoked.  All of the pulmonary patients have            
 smoked, and some of them still smoke, even with their oxygen in               
 hand.  They have all stated to her, "If only I had known as a                 
 teenager; if only my parents hadn't smoked; or if it was not so               
 cheap and readily available."  Ms. Muench stated she is referring             
 to people with cardio-vascular disease who are in their thirties              
 and forties.  It used to be that most of her patients were all                
 older than her.  Half of the patients she works with now are                  
 younger than her: they are 29, 30, and 35.                                    
                                                                               
 MS. MUENCH stated this is not a tax issue, as has been said several           
 times; nor is it a discriminatory issue.  This is a health issue.             
 We all pay for smoking addiction with loved ones who have died or             
 become very ill.  We pay with higher health-care costs and higher             
 insurance premiums.  Smoking is no longer an individual behavior              
 that only affects the person who is smoking: it affects their                 
 family members and coworkers, the health-care system, and employee            
 work habits.  The State of Alaska has within its' power one means             
 to stop the alarming rates of smoking in this state.  She does not            
 believe that a tax alone will be enough, but it is time to have a             
 more equitable system for paying for this addiction.  It makes                
 sense to offer a disincentive to smoke, along with continuing                 
 existing education and role-model programs, rather than a punitive            
 system or penalties for underage smokers.  This would seem to her             
 to be a burden to an already overburdened judicial and police                 
 system.  She urged support of increasing taxation on tobacco                  
 products in the hopes that fewer people will start smoking, more              
 will quit, we will have a healthier state, and perhaps she can                
 retire earlier than anticipated.                                              
                                                                               
 Number 548                                                                    
                                                                               
 GLENN RAY, Manager - Health Promotion Program, Community Health &             
 Emergency Medical Services, Division of Public Health, Department             
 of Health & Social Services, stated he wanted to address an earlier           
 statement that this tax would not cure the problem.  That is true,            
 but he wants to frame that within what is happening nationally.  In           
 every one of the fifty states, there is a tobacco prevention and              
 control program.  That program is funded with federal dollars.  In            
 addition to that, ten programs are funded through the Robert Wood             
 Johnson Foundation; those ten programs are administered by the                
 American Medical Association.  Alaska is a recipient of two of                
 those grants: the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the CDC                  
 Foundation.  In all those programs, there are four strategic areas:           
 youth access, media advocacy, clean indoor air, and pricing.  It is           
 in the pricing area that taxation is important.  Taxation is the              
 public's way of increasing the price of tobacco.  It is clear from            
 the experiences in California, Massachusetts, Canada, and other               
 smaller locations that when there is an increase in the price of              
 tobacco, there is a decrease in youth consumption.  That is                   
 significant to the long-range reduction of tobacco use.                       
                                                                               
 Number 565                                                                    
                                                                               
 ANNE MARIE HOLEN, Citizens to Protect Kids from Tobacco Coalition,            
 testifying from Anchorage, stated the coalition is a statewide                
 coalition of organizations and individuals who support the proposed           
 legislation to increase state tobacco taxes.  The coalition                   
 includes the American Cancer Society, the Lung Association, the               
 Heart Association, the Alaska Native Health Board, the State                  
 Medical Association, the State Public Health Association, the                 
 Association of Alaska School Boards, and so many other                        
 organizations that if she listed them all she would use up her                
 three minutes.  Citizens to Protect Kids from Tobacco Coalition               
 strongly urged the committee to support the proposed legislation              
 for all the reasons mentioned in previous testimony.  But more than           
 that, the coalition urged committee members to take a more active             
 role in educating their colleagues, both in the senate and in the             
 house about the importance of this legislation.  This is not the              
 time for posturing about "no new taxes".  The public overwhelmingly           
 supports this legislation, including most smokers in Alaska.                  
                                                                               
 MS. HOLEN stated that smoking is the leading cause of death in                
 Alaska, and our children are becoming addicted to nicotine in                 
 record numbers.  The health and economic impacts of tobacco use on            
 society are enormous.  We have seen news stories for the last                 
 several days about how one legislator in particular thinks tobacco            
 taxes are unfair.  Ms. Holen asked, "Is it fair that non-smokers in           
 this country pay 75% of all government expenditures for smoking-              
 related health care?"  In Alaska, smoking creates a drain on the              
 economy of almost $300,000,000.00 per year.  We all feel that                 
 impact, whether we're aware of it or not.                                     
                                                                               
 TAPE 96-20, SIDE B                                                            
                                                                               
 MS. HOLEN stated there is no good reason to oppose a tobacco tax              
 increase, and every reason to support it.                                     
                                                                               
 Number 585                                                                    
                                                                               
 ERIK MYERS, testifying from Anchorage, stated there is a strong               
 case to be made for increasing taxes on tobacco products.  He                 
 thinks it is the right of adults to make informed choices, but a              
 fourteen-year-old, seduced by multi-billion dollar media campaigns            
 are not making informed choices.  Committee members have heard the            
 statistics: adults don't start smoking, kids start smoking.  The              
 facts are not in dispute: it is abundantly clear that significant             
 tax increases will save lives.  There are very few opportunities              
 public officials have to take an action that will save lives.  If             
 you take action and support this measure, there will be a                     
 significant number of lives saved as a result of that action.                 
 Failure to take action on this measure, which has been endorsed by            
 Republican administrations on the national level, by the Hickel               
 administration in the past, and with other multi-partisan support,            
 perpetuates the ongoing predation by the tobacco industry on                  
 children.  He hopes the legislature will move promptly on this                
 legislation.                                                                  
                                                                               
 Number 550                                                                    
                                                                               
 ANNETTE MARLEY, Alaska Native Health Board, supports SB 210, SB
 234, and HB 431.  Ms. Marley works for the Trampling Tobacco                  
 Project at the Alaska Native Health Board.  She sees these bills as           
 the most essential health measure that could be taken to reduce the           
 ravaging results of tobacco use on Alaskans' health.  Ms. Marley              
 gave a brief history of tobacco use by Alaska Natives.  She stated            
 that more than one-third of Alaska Native deaths are attributable             
 to tobacco use.  This loss of life is in part due to the                      
 artificially low price of tobacco.  It is believed that with a                
 dollar increase on each pack of cigarettes, 32% of Alaskan teens              
 who smoke will be spared a tobacco-related death.  She asked                  
 legislators to not continue to allow kids' lives to be traded in              
 for tobacco.  She, and 74% of Alaskans urge legislators to vote for           
 SB 210  and SB 234.                                                           
                                                                               
 Number 523                                                                    
                                                                               
 EMILY LARSON, American Cancer Society, stated that in her years as            
 a volunteer, she has seen a lot of unnecessary suffering.  In the             
 past four years, she has lost two siblings from lung disease.  It             
 is a deadly disease, and we need to get serious about doing                   
 something about this.  She sees this as a health issue, with any              
 money being raised simply a bonus.  She asked legislators to                  
 consider the legislation.                                                     
                                                                               
 Number 508                                                                    
                                                                               
 DIANA KUHNS, Executive Vice-President, American Cancer Society,               
 stated the American Cancer Society conducted a poll last January.             
 That poll found that 75% of the respondents of the poll stated they           
 support tobacco taxes.  Of respondents who were smokers, 55%                  
 support the tax.  So the society is present in support of SB 210.             
 Each day, over 3,000 children become regular smokers.  If we look             
 into the future, 30 of these 3,000 children will be murdered, 60              
 will die in car accidents, and 750 will be killed by tobacco.  She            
 stated that legislators' support of SB 210 would be greatly                   
 appreciated.                                                                  
                                                                               
 CHAIRMAN SHARP entered into the record written testimony from Ms.             
 McCabe dated 3/14/96:                                                         
                                                                               
 Dear Senator Sharp:                                                           
                                                                               
 This is to ask your support of legislation increasing tobacco                 
 taxes.                                                                        
                                                                               
 I view this legislation more as a health measure  - a significant             
 step towards disease prevention - than as a form of taxation and              
 revenue.  Increasing the cost of cigarettes will help discourage              
 young people from starting to smoke, and will protect those who are           
 most vulnerable to a proven health hazard.                                    
                                                                               
 Increased taxation in this case is fully justified.  Smoking                  
 creates major social costs, and the revenue generated by the                  
 increase would at least begin to cover those costs.                           
                                                                               
 Sincerely, Janet W. McCabe.                                                   
                                                                               
 Number 485                                                                    
 BENJAMIN S. STEELE supports increasing tobacco taxes.  He stated he           
 is an ex-smoker, and it has been quite hard quitting.  Mr. Steele             
 stated his father smoked until he had a heart attack.  He thinks              
 these bills are one of the best things they can do for the state,             
 and for his family.                                                           
                                                                               
 Number 475                                                                    
                                                                               
 CURT BODENMENDER informed the committee he started smoking as a               
 child, not unlike the majority - 90% - who start before the age of            
 19.  He started smoking at the age of 14 because of the image he              
 wanted to create and because of the easy availability.  It was                
 inexpensive: one pack cost about the same as two cans of pop.  It             
 did not take long before he became dependant on tobacco, and soon             
 he needed to smoke to feel normal and get along in every-day                  
 situations.                                                                   
                                                                               
 MR. BODENMENDER stated once he began smoking, it took him about               
 three years to decide to quit, then seven more years to actually              
 quit.  So he wasn't surprised to hear that 70% of smokers want to             
 quit, but only 2.5% quit within any given year.  He can't recall              
 exactly how many times he's tried to quit, but in the last year,              
 it's been at least five times.  Mr. Bodenmender stated he quit                
 again seven weeks ago.  He quit because he doesn't want to be                 
 controlled by a substance and wants to be at his full capacity, and           
 because he doesn't want to die prematurely.  He did not quit                  
 because he stopped craving tobacco.  The physical and psychological           
 urges are still there.  His situation is not unique, and he is sure           
 that every ex-smoker wishes there was something that would have               
 kept them from starting, and that is why he is testifying in favor            
 of increasing tobacco taxes.  He believes this tax will greatly               
 decrease the number of people who have to go through the pain of              
 quitting, or worse, the hopelessness of not quitting.  He believes          
 this will drastically cut the number of kids who start using                  
 tobacco, and subsequently the number of adults who daily battle               
 their simultaneous craving for tobacco and the grave need to stop.            
                                                                               
 Number 433                                                                    
                                                                               
 STACY GOADE, Staff, Seven Circles Coalition, stated that some                 
 people think if more education occurs, they can stop cigarette                
 smoking.  She doesn't see that happening.  There are many education           
 and smoking cessation programs, but they are still seeing increases           
 in the number of smoking youth.  We would like to reduce youth                
 access to tobacco products in the stores.  We would like to                   
 advocate for tobacco tax increases.  We want to educate youth about           
 tobacco advertising: it's extremely powerful.  The network also               
 believes that this tax legislation is of a health benefit, not so             
 much a tax, but a disincentive to use of tobacco.  It isn't really          
 a tax, because we pay higher taxes in the long run for health-care            
 costs related to tobacco illness and death.  As elected officials,            
 you can view this as a win-win-win solution.  The Alaska Federation           
 of Natives (AFN) passed a resolution in support of increasing the             
 tobacco tax.  Nearly twice the number of Alaska Native men and                
 women are dying from smoking cigarettes, compared to their                    
 counterparts in this state.  She thinks that a tax would reduce use           
 throughout the state.                                                         
                                                                               
 CHAIRMAN SHARP stated the committee appreciates the broad range and           
 diversity of testimony that has been given today.  He stated he               
 looks forward to progress on these bills.  The chairman stated the            
 committee would move on to the next item on the agenda.                       

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