2013-04-21 P-D: “Smoking-ban cities would face tax penalty under House bill”

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The sponsor of this bill may not acknowledge it but she is essentially acting as a surrogate for the tobacco lobby. If enacted, this bill would set the cause of public health back decades, and put the gains painstakingly achieved around the state over several decades back to square one.

I cannot think of more disastrous legislation, apart from the effort by Tobacco Institute lobbyist, John Britton, in 1987 who colluded with the voluntary health agencies, American Cancer, Heart and Lung, and Susan Sherman, lobbyist for the State Department of Health, in attempting to pass a very weak statewide Clean Indoor Air Act superseding all stronger longer ordinances by the inclusion of a preemption clause.

This time it may be the casino industry which is behind this effort and who seem to have supplanted the tobacco industry when it comes to opposing smoke-free air ordinances. Their goal is to maintain smoking in their gaming areas based on an unfounded fear of losing revenue from smoking clients.

The story below by St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter, Mark Schlinkmann, quotes Stan Cowan, who gave the following testimony opposing the bill on Tuesday, April 18, before the Local Government Committee, which was considering this legislation sponsored by Rep. Kathie Conway, R-St. Charles County:

Stan Cowan

Stan Cowan

Testimony on HB 1021
Stanley R. Cowan, R.S.

Having dedicated 38 years to protecting and improving public health, I’ve had experience in efforts to reduce preventable diseases and premature deaths. These included investigating food, water and vector-borne disease outbreaks; assuring food service operators and food manufacturers provide wholesome, unadulterated and sanitary food products; implementing standards for safe private drinking water supplies and proper onsite sewage systems; and investigation of possible cancer clusters in communities among other activities.
         By far, the leading cause of preventable diseases and premature deaths in Missouri is tobacco use and exposure to tobacco smoke. It is responsible for an estimated 10,000 deaths in Missouri every year – 27 deaths every day.
HB 1021 is against public health and should be turned away for several reasons:
• Intrusive into local control
– Local government knows better than state government how to apportion local tax revenues. This bill would remove local governmental control over apportionment of local property and sales taxes that fund road and bridge maintenance, libraries, fire districts, ambulance districts and other public services.

– There is no precedent for a state law to direct how local government shall apportion their local tax revenues based on whether a non-relevant local ordinance is or will be in effect.

         There is no logical rationale for forcing local governments to redirect local property and county sales tax revenues to school districts solely based on the existence of a local ordinance for smokefree workplaces and public places in the community.

• May not be constitutional
         When a city council or voters enact a smokefree ordinance, this bill would require county, not city, sales taxes to be directed toward school districts. It is likely without precedent that an action by a city would mandate a budgetary consequence not to the city government, but to the county government.

         This could be a violation of the Hancock Amendment when the state, by mandating that local property tax and county sales tax revenues be redirected, would be creating possible underfunding of non-school district budget items without providing replacement funding.

• Smokefree ordinances are beneficial
         Numerous scientific studies have shown reduced hospitalization rates for heart attacks, stroke, asthma, emphysema, bronchitis, and pneumonia after communities have implemented smokefree ordinances.1,2,3
         Besides saving human suffering, the reductions of hospitalizations are also a savings in preventable health care costs to families, to health insurers, and importantly, to taxpayers. Studies show an average 17% reduction of heart attack hospitalizations within the first year a smokefree policy is implemented.4 Over 2/3rds of these hospitalizations are paid by Medicaid, Medicare and other governmental programs. A state smokefree law could save taxpayers over $116 million.5 And this isn’t even considering the additional savings from preventable hospitalizations from stroke, asthma and other conditions.
         A study comparing Massachusetts communities found youth were 40% less likely to become regular smokers in communities with ordinances for smokefree restaurants.6
         The overwhelming preponderance of studies published in peer-reviewed journals that use objective data, and are not funded by tobacco companies found smokefree ordinances did not cause economic harm to hospitality businesses.7

• Ethically wrong
         When secondhand smoke is known as a cause for lung and heart diseases, and when smokefree policies have been shown to improve public health, reduce hospitalization rates and save health care costs, there is no justification to promote legislation that seeks to discourage or penalize communities for adopting smokefree policies for the good of their community.

1 “Reduced Hospitalizations for Acute Myocardial Infarction After Implementation of a Smoke-Free Ordinance – City of Pueblo, Colorado, 2002-2006” Morbidity & Mortality Weekly Report, Vol. 57/No.51&52, January 2, 2009. 2 Trachsel, Lukas D., et.al., “Reduced incidence of acute myocardial infarction in the first year of implementation of a public smoking ban in Graubünden, Switzerland”, Swiss Medical News, January 7, 2010 3 Herman, Patricia, ND, PhD and Walsh, Michele, PhD, “Hospital Admissions for Acute Myocardial Infarction, Angina, Stroke, and Asthma After Implementation of Arizona’s Comprehensive Statewide Smoking Ban” American Journal of Public Health, published online ahead of print May 13, 2010 as 10.2105/AJPH.2009.1795724 Lightwood, James, PhD, et.al., “Declines in Acute Myocardial Infarction After Smoke-Free Laws and Individual Risk Attributable to Secondhand Smoke”, Circulation, October 6, 2009; 120:1373-13795 Missouri Department of Health & Senior Services, Missouri Information for Community Assessment, http://www.dhss.mo.gov/data/mica accessed March 7, 2011.6 Siegel, Michael, M.D., Ph.D., “Local Restaurant Smoking Regulations and the Adolescent Smoking Initiation Process” Arch Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine 2008:162(5); 477-4837 Scollo, M., et.al., “Review of the quality of studies on the economic effects of smoke-free policies on the hospitality industry” Tobacco Control 2003;12:13-20

Below is the article by St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter, Mark Schlinkmann, published on page B1:

Smoking-ban cities would face tax penalty under House bill
By Mark Schlinkmann mschlinkmann@post-dispatch.com 636-255-7233

ST. CHARLES COUNTY • Cities and counties with local smoking bans would face stiff financial penalties under a Missouri House bill submitted recently by a group of St. Charles County lawmakers.
         The measure would require cities or counties to turn over to local school districts the property and sales tax revenue they get from businesses affected by tobacco restrictions.

Rep. Kathie Conway +

Rep. Kathie Conway, R-St. Charles County

         The bill’s main sponsor — Rep. Kathie Conway, R-St. Charles County — said she’s trying to protect the rights of owners of bars, restaurants and other businesses to decide for themselves whether to allow smoking.
         “If these municipalities and counties are going to hurt the income of small businesses, maybe their bottom line should be affected as well,” Conway said.
         Moreover, Conway said, the public schools could use the extra money.
Richard Sheets, from Missouri Municipal League web page

Richard Sheets, from Missouri Municipal League web page

         The bill, which was introduced April 2 and given a House committee hearing Thursday, is opposed by the Missouri Municipal League and anti-smoking groups. With only a month left in this year’s legislative session, the bill’s chances of passage aren’t great.
         Richard Sheets, the league’s deputy director, said the measure would punish all residents of a city or county by denying them tax revenue for municipal services.
         Sheets said he believes it was filed mainly to send a message to officials in St. Charles County as they consider local smoking bans.
         Sheets also objected to the state imposing its will on the smoking issue.
         “This is a local issue that should be vetted through the local process of elected representatives,” Sheets said.

Stan Cowan

Stan Cowan

Stan Cowan, a board member with Tobacco-Free Missouri, said the bill “is essentially trying to intimidate city and county governments to slow down or not pass smoke-free ordinances.”
         Cowan also questioned whether the bill would violate the state Constitution by transferring some local tax revenue from its intended purpose.
         Although the bill would apply statewide, St. Charles County lawmakers have provided most of its initial support.
         Seven other GOP House members from St. Charles County signed on as co-sponsors with Conway. The only co-sponsor from another area is Rep. Penny Hubbard, D-St. Louis.
         Conway put the bill’s chances at “50-50 at best” but said she’ll try again next year if she fails this time around.
         “It’s not just to start the conversation but to make some of the communities aware of my concern for the businesses,” she said.
         Another sponsor, Rep. Doug Funderburk, R-St. Peters, said the bill is “only fair” because government smoking bans are “dictating to private entities.”
         The St. Charles County Council last year voted to put on the November ballot a two-question countywide smoking ban package, but that was blocked by the county elections director and a circuit judge. The package’s sponsor wants to try again next year.
         Meanwhile, the St. Charles City Council recently decided to hold hearings next month on a city smoking ban that likely would exempt the Ameristar Casino.
         O’Fallon and Lake Saint Louis are the only cities in the county that now have smoking bans.
         Bans also are in effect in St. Louis and across St. Louis County. Pam Walker, St. Louis’ acting health director, said it’s unjust for the Legislature “to come in after the fact to impose a financial cost on what is clearly a local decision.”
         Conway said before the House committee takes up her bill for a vote, she plans to reword it so it affects tax revenue only from bars, restaurants, bowling alleys, casinos and other entertainment-related businesses covered by smoking bans.
         She said she doesn’t intend for it to cover tax revenue of large companies whose workplaces might be subject to local-government smoking bans.

mogasp update 2013-04-22 @ 6:57 pm: I invited Rep. Kathie Conway to reply to my introductory comments, which she was good enough to do. I reproduce her response in full below and am happy to withdraw any suggestion that her introduction of this bill was motivated by casino money:

Rep. Kathie Conway +

Rep. Kathie Conway, R-St. Charles County

I appreciate the consideration. Be assured that there is no “big” tobacco or casino money behind my bill. I do not appreciate that insinuation. I and I alone conceived the bill.
Additionally, this is a property rights bill and has nothing to do with encouraging smoking. In fact, I could not agree with you more about the hazards of tobacco consumption and I stated that publicly in the committee meeting. But I don’t feel government should penalize businesses, some of which were in business long before these types of laws were passed. Should there not be consequences to their actions as well?
The bill has been re-worked. When, and if, it is adopted by the committee, it will be posted on the House website at http://www.mo.house.gov.
If you feel you owe me an apology, that’s fine. I try not to be offended by people on the other side of an argument, but again, I don’t like the insinuation that I’m being bought or paid for by special interests.
Representative Kathie Conway

11 responses to “2013-04-21 P-D: “Smoking-ban cities would face tax penalty under House bill”

  1. MoGASP, it is a dirty tactic to suggest that Representative Kathie Conway has colluded with Big Tobacco. I spoke with her this morning and she assured me that the tobacco companies have not even contacted her concerning this legislation. She is acting purely as a libertarian. You owe her an apology.

    mogasp comment: I didn’t say Rep. Conway had colluded with the tobacco lobby. Read what I wrote. But she is certainly doing them a favor.
    I said it suggests that she is acting on behalf of the casino industry, which seems to have replaced the tobacco lobby in regards to the secondhand smoke issue. And I’m sure that Rep. Kathie Conway is quite capable of defending herself against any unfair criticisms. If she wishes to contact me directly with such concerns I’m always open to making corrections, when legitimate.

  2. Mogasp, you wrote, “The sponsor of this bill may not wish to admit it but she is really acting as a surrogate for the tobacco lobby.”

    I see your position, but I don’t think the characterization is any more fair than if I wrote of a pro-ban bill, “The sponsor of this bill may not wish to admit it but she is really acting as a surrogate for Big Pharma nicotine chewing gum lobby.”

    In both cases might stand to economically benefit an industry. But saying a legislator is “acting as a surrogate” for that industry implies they are somehow economically benefiting from that industry for their position. Actually, the implication would be milder regarding Big Pharma because tales of its own behind-the-scenes dirty tricks and techniques have never been widely publicized in the same way as those of Big Tobacco.

    I would go beyond this bill: Businesses harmed by a ban should be able to DEDUCT related losses from their taxes. Pro-banners say there are no losses… so why would they object?

    – MJM

    mogasp comment: I don’t equate “Big Pharma” with Big Tobacco and I think the comparison is a red herring.
    Rep. Kathie Conway was good enough to engage in a civil e-mail dialog with me, which ended with our disagreeing on this issue, as expected. I did’t conclude that she was acting on behalf of Big Tobacco, but her efforts are certainly in line with their goals. In terms of current efforts, it is unquestionably the casinos which are among the most active and wield the economic heft in opposing smoke-free air ordinances.

  3. I don’t agree that you owe her an apology. You didn’t suggest that Conway colluded, you said she is acting as a surrogate. Those are different. And you could be wrong in saying that was her intent, but her actions appeared to you to be that of a surrogate. A second point I wanted to make is that if she believes she’s acting as a libertarian then she’s misinformed about what that means. Libertarians (as I believe I am) believe that one’s freedom ends when it starts to affect someone else’s freedom. Presumably smoking does affect others.

    mogasp comment: I suspect the answer to your last point from opponents of smoke-free air is that if secondhand smoke bothers you just “choose” to go somewhere else. You see, it’s all about “choice”!

  4. MoGasp and Kim, if I suggested that a representative was acting as a surrogate for Al Quaida because they favored strengthening American Civil Liberty protections that might as a side effect make it more difficult to question potential terrorists, would you say that was fair? Given the public perception of the tobacco industry that has been promoted so strongly over the past few decades the situation is not much different. Defending the allusion by saying “Well, I’m not really saying the rep COLLUDED with Al Quaida…” wouldn’t really be enough of an excuse to justify the use of the surrogate phrase: the intent of tarnishing the person with someone else’s dirty underwear is still achieved.

    – MJM

  5. And I’d like to add that it’s my belief that a good bit of the political support that has been given to the antismoking movement in political halls over the past twenty years has indeed actually come from fear of such tarnishing. Antismokers have both implicitly and explicitly threatened legislators that they’ll be blasted as on the side of Big Tobacco if they dare to defy such things as smoking ban votes.

    – MJM

  6. Implying that anyone who favors property rights and individual rights is in bed with or a front group for big tobacco is a tactic that has long been used by anti-smoking groups. The latest such attack was done by Stanton Glantz using taxpayer funding. Just the implication is an underhanded tactic by MoGASP. I understand your passion but you’re better then that.

    mogasp comment: My aim is to be objective, but having been actively involved in this issue since 1986, suspicions of a quid pro quo have often been borne out by the facts. Rep. Kathie Conway may be the exception to prove the rule.

  7. MOGASP, why are you citing claims that bans immediately cut incidence of diseases such as heart attacks? I thought you agreed such claims are bogus. Also, since bans don’t cut smoking rates, how can you say efforts to block bans benefit Big Tobacco?– even indirectly.

    mogasp reply: I typically don’t edit comments with which I disagree, including yours, although I may respond to them. As to smoking rates vs smoke-free air laws, I can’t point to any particular reference off the cuff, but I thought it was well-established that there is a connection. It certainly seems logical that there would be, which provides the reason for the tobacco lobby’s long-running opposition to smoke-free air laws.

  8. MOGASP, no a Federal Reserve study found no connection between bans and smoking rates. Also, national smoking rates have dropped little since 2003 when state and local ban activity really began to pick up. What little smoking rate decline there has been since 2003, is less than what would generally be expected based on smoking rate declines after 1960 til 2003.

    mogasp comment: The “Federal Reserve” study to which you refer does not have the imprimatur of that federal agency. It’s merely a study by two staff members, as I recall, and is of questionable merit.
    If smoke-free air laws had no impact on smoking rates why would the tobacco industry have expended so much energy etc. over the past decades on defeating them or trying to roll them back? Until relatively recently, when that role has fallen primarily to the casino industry, the tobacco industry was the leading opponent of smoke-free air laws, even at the local level.
    For example, I recall the Tobacco Institute flying out a spokesperson to present multi-page testimony at a public hearing in St. Charles City in 1988 to help defeat a modest smoke-free air ordinance. The ordinance sponsor, Councilman Tom Bailey, was quoted in a New York Times article in which he was featured as saying:
    “At the hearing it was motherhood and apple pie and smokers, and anyone who said differently was not a nice person.”
    See P-D 11/09/2009: “Some wonder if smoking ban will waft westward”

  9. But the Federal reserve study conclusions are consistant with national smoking statistics from 2003 to now. -namely very little change despite huge increases in bans. Also, why do you say the Fed Study is questionable? It’s done by researchers with no known biases. Why do you call anything not consistant with your dogma questionable?
    Perhaps back in 1988, Big Tobacco did think bans might harm consumption, but it’s become so apparant they do not, that Big T has not been active fighting bans for years.

    mogasp reply: If smoke-free air ordinances DON’T affect consumption then why is the local casino industry in the metro St. Louis area so opposed to them? Their apparent fear has been that it drives smokers away if the gaming floor is smoke-free.

  10. Mogasp, you say Dave’s study “is of questionable merit.” In my “Lies Behind The Smoking Bans” I criticized a good number of antismoking studies as being “of questionable merit” so I certainly can’t say that’s an unfair type of claim to make.

    HOWEVER, it’s only fair to make it if you do what I’ve so carefully and painstakingly done over the years when making such claims: explain specifically WHY you feel the study “is of questionable merit.”

    If you cannot do that, then you should formally retract the criticism and apologize to the authors.

    As for industries flying people around for testimonies, have you seen J. Repace’s 2003 Tacoma receipt? $5,000 consulting fee, $1,800 expenses, and $1,000 for leaving them a CD Rom powerpoint presentation: $7,800 for perhaps an hour’s work? (Not sure exactly how long he spoke there, but I remember something about him being annoyed at not having enough time to actually present his ppt. I’m sure the $1,000 price-tag made him feel better though.)

    – MJM


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