It is difficult for me to see any way in which a public health group could praise a state legislature that voted to make it criminal homicide for a woman to take the morning after pill or to suffer a miscarriage induced by an abusive partner or an accident, but the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids has done so.
It is also difficult for me to see how a public health group could praise a legislature that has asked its citizens to smoke in order to support critical government programs. But the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids has done so.
The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids praised the Utah legislature for enacting a $1.00 per pack cigarette tax increase in order to provide funds to support critical government programs that were on the chopping block. The money has already been allocated and none of it is going to anti-smoking programs or programs to provide services to smokers who will be paying the tax, Instead, the revenues are dedicated to save critical government programs that were on the chopping block and would otherwise have had to be cut.
The Rest of the Story
It is not possible for me to express the strength of my condemnation of the Utah legislature for showing such a disrespect for the autonomy of women and for the Constitution, trying to establish a state-based religion by making it criminal homicide for a woman to choose to use a morning after pill or to suffer a miscarriage as a result of the actions of an abusive partner or of an accident. The simple fact that the Utah legislature has made it its business to investigate or have an interest in the circumstances behind every miscarriage suffered in the state (which is about 20% of identified pregnancies, by the way) is sickening.
Now, the Utah legislature has opted to save critical government programs through the most cowardly of policies: a regressive tax that punishes those least able to pay -- the most heavily addicted smokers and their families and children.
Moreover, the Utah legislature has now made it essential for its citizens to continue smoking, or else critical government programs will have to be cut.
Utah is basically telling its citizens who smoke: "Please continue to smoke so that we'll have your tax money to support critical government programs. Don't quit, because if you do, you are putting these critical public programs at risk of being decimated."
If Utah legislators were sincerely concerned about protecting the health of their state's children, they would have allocated revenues to smoking education and prevention programs. In squandering that opportunity, they ensured that the tobacco industry's marketing of tobacco products in Utah will go relatively unopposed. But even worse, in sending the message that cigarette consumption is necessary to support critical public programs, the legislature has made it clear that it really doesn't want smokers to quit. The legislature has made the state dependent on a steady, continuing stream of cigarette revenues for the funding of critical programs and has completely eliminated the incentive for the state to try to reduce cigarette consumption.
In light of the action that the Utah legislature has taken this session, it deserves nothing but condemnation. I would not be so narrow-minded - thinking only about anti-smoking actions - to praise the legislature this session even if it did something that was sincerely intended to reduce tobacco use. But this measure is not sincerely intended to protect children, it is merely a piece of political cowardice: balancing the state's budget in the most politically easy way. But the end result is setting up perverse incentives for the state to make sure that nothing is done that would seriously decrease cigarette consumption.
Here are some T-shirts I have designed to acknowledge the accomplishments of the Utah legislature this session:
"Utah: Where Women Can Go to Jail for Using Legal Contraception"
"Utah: Where Miscarriages Constitute Murder"
"Utah: Where You Can Attend Church at the State House"
"Utah: The Greatest Hypocrites on Earth"
"I Support My State Budget: I Smoke"
"I Care About Critical Government Services: I Will Keep Smoking"
"If You Care About Essential State Programs, Don't Even Think About Quitting"