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The folly of paying for healthcare programs with cigarette taxes

The folly of paying for healthcare programs with cigarette taxes
Blast from the past: a sign in a Los Angeles store window on June 8, the day before the legal age for buying tobacco was raised to 21 as part of California's anti-smoking efforts. (Associated Press)

To the editor: Michael Hiltzik is correct that "California's ballot initiative process traditionally has been a laboratory for new methods of campaign deceit," excoriating the opponents' campaign against Proposition 56, which would increase the state cigarette tax by $2 a pack. ("The tobacco industry's deceitful Prop 56 campaign takes a page from its old playbook," Oct. 7)

However, reading the state's official voter information guide, it's obvious the proponents are just as deceptive by saying the tax will help pay for tobacco-related healthcare costs and prevention measures. According to the state's legislative analyst, funds from the increased cigarette tax "would be allocated to a variety of purposes, with most of the monies used to augment spending on healthcare for low-income Californians."

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Since one-third of all Californians are now enrolled in Medi-Cal, perhaps all of the state's taxpayers should share some responsibility in support of this vastly expanding program, especially considering that the cigarette tax has become such an unreliable source of income because of the diminishing number of smokers.

Jim Redhead, San Diego

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To the editor: Hiltzik is correct on the deception by Big Tobacco in its efforts to discredit Proposition 56.

Of course, much of the tax revenue from Proposition 56 will go to the treatment of health diseases caused by smoking, as well it should. Smokers should realize that their unhealthful behavior has a social cost and that they should, assuming they want to endanger their own health, pay for the care that such a choice causes.

Every time I hear one of those No on 56 ads, I switch channels.

Michael B. Natelson, Newport Beach

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