• 22.12.2012 Berryville Bust Part Of $33M Cigarettes Sting

    A Federal Grand Jury sitting in the United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia in Harrisonburg has indicted dozens of individuals for conspiring to traffic in contraband cigarettes, money laundering and a variety of related charges.The defendants were charged by the grand jury in four separate indictments returned under seal on February 17, 2011, August 3, 2011 and October 6, 2011. Those indictments were unsealed earlier this week following the arrest and initial court appearances by the defendants.The charges are the result of a three-year investigation by the United...

  • 20.11.2012 Covenant Kicks The Habit

    Amy Olson-Yarbrough was tired of being a prisoner to tobacco."I decided I didn't want cigarettes to control my life any more," Olson-Yarbrough said. "When you're a smoker you have to figure out where you're going to be able to smoke cigarettes next, how long until my next cigarette, how am I going to hide it from my kids . . ."So, on Nov. 23, 2010, Olson-Yarbrough - a pack-a-day smoker who had been at it for close to two decades - quit smoking cigarettes.Now, Olson-Yarbrough can't stand anything about it."The smell of buy cigarettes really nauseates me," she said. "I'll never go back to...

  • 18.10.2012 No-smoking Policy For New Hires

    Should smokers who want to work for the county be forced to sign a pledge they will quit smoking cigarettes — and then be required to follow through before starting work?Should they pay more for their health-care coverage if they don’t keep the pledge, or decline to sign it?Is it discrimination for government not to consider smokers to fill open positions?The Muscatine County Board of Supervisors decided to have the county’s Health and Safety Committee study the issue, which was brought up by Sheriff Dave White at the Board’s regular meeting Monday.White told the Board he’s heard...

  • 10.09.2012 Court Upholds Big Award In Smoker's Case

    A state appeals court upheld $13.8 million in punitive damages against Philip Morris on Wednesday for the addiction and death of a 45-year cigarette smoker, saying the company's decades of concealment and lies about the dangers of its products were "extremely reprehensible."In a 2-1 ruling, the Second District Court of Appeal in Los Angeles affirmed a verdict by a Los Angeles County jury in the case of Betty Bullock of Newport Beach (Orange County). Bullock had started smoking cigarettes Marlboros in 1956, at age 17, and quit in 2001 after she was diagnosed with lung cancer, two years...

  • 09.09.2012 California Court Approves 16:1 Punitive Damage Award

    Corporate America has pushed hard for years to hold the line on punitive damages, with some successThe Supreme Court has ruled that excessively high punitive damage awards, designed to punish defendants for particularly egregious behavior, can violate the Due Process clause. And the California Supreme Court had held that punitive damages typically should not be more than nine to ten times the size of damages awarded to compensate injured parties.But in a smoking cigarettes case against Philip Morris, a California appellate court yesterday signed off on punitive damages that were 16 times...

A New Hampshire Giveaway To Big Cigarettes

When the New Hampshire Legislature cut the state's cigarette tax by 10 cents a pack, effective July 1, it was touted as a way to boost the state's economy by reducing cigarette prices and attracting smokers from neighboring states.

It's outrageous enough that a state would encourage sales of a deadly and addictive product — one that kills 1,700 New Hampshire residents and costs the state $564 million in health care bills each year.

Now it turns out that the promised cigarette price cut is a total mirage. As reported by The Portsmouth Herald, tobacco companies immediately hiked prices, pocketing the increased revenue instead of passing it on to consumers.

As Mike Rollo of the American Cancer Society told the paper, "They basically gave a bailout to the tobacco companies. They certainly didn't help the consumer or the small-business owner."

The tax cut will cost New Hampshire millions in revenue at a time when the state is making deep cuts to funding for hospitals, the state university system and other vital programs.

So who's behind the Big Tobacco giveaway? New Hampshire newspapers point the finger at House Speaker William O'Brien, who insisted that any budget agreement include the cigarette tax cut.

"The millions of dollars in tax revenue that could have helped the state during these troubled times was literally given to the tobacco companies by O'Brien and his minions," The Portsmouth Herald stated in an editorial.

O'Brien had plenty of help from tobacco companies. "In all my years up here, I've never seen an industry twist and push our Legislature the way the tobacco industry pushed," Sen. Jack Barnes said in a speech on the Senate floor.

New Hampshire's experience is a lesson for legislators and voters across the country. When tobacco companies and their allies advocate for cigarette tax cuts, the ultimate winner will be Big Tobacco, not consumers.

The right policy is to increase the cigarette tax — a proven way to reduce smoking cigarettes, especially among kids, and raise much-needed revenue at the same time. It's a health win, a revenue win and also a political win because polls show voters overwhelming support increasing the cigarette tax.