Proposed smoking fee draws surprise foes: anti-smoking advocates

2013-02-28T07:30:00Z Proposed smoking fee draws surprise foes: anti-smoking advocatesDAVID WAHLBERG | Wisconsin State Journal | | 608-252-6125 Journal Times

Gov. Scott Walker's proposed $50-a-month fee for state employees who smoke faces some surprising opponents: anti-smoking advocates.

Smoke Free Wisconsin, the American Lung Association, the American Cancer Society and the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids don't support such surcharges on health insurance.

The fees make coverage less affordable for smokers and aren't proven to get them to quit, the groups say.

"A surcharge puts up a barrier for many people — particularly low-income people, where we see the higher rates of smoking," said Dona Wininsky, a spokeswoman for the American Lung Association in Wisconsin.

The groups are fighting similar provisions in the federal health reform law that allow insurance companies to charge smokers up to 50 percent more than non-smokers.

"There is little scientific evidence or research showing that financial incentives or disincentives tied to health insurance premiums will compel an individual to quit," the American Cancer Society said in a statement last week.

Cigarette taxes, smoke-free laws and tobacco prevention and cessation programs work better, the groups say.

Walker proposed the $50-a-month surcharge as part of his 2013-15 budget to offset long-term employee health care costs.

Smokers cost a third more to insure than non-smokers, said Stephanie Marquis, spokeswoman for the state Department of Administration. The fee, affecting about 10 percent of the 69,000 state employees, would save $2.7 million over two years, she said.

At least nine states have similar provisions, Marquis said.

Among the employees likely affected: the state's new top health official, Department of Health Services secretary Kitty Rhoades.

Rhoades, at least until recently, has been a smoker. The department oversees the state's tobacco prevention and control program. She and two spokeswomen didn't respond to questions about her stance on the surcharge.

Formerly deputy secretary, Rhoades was named to the top spot last week when Dennis Smith said he was starting a job this week at a Washington, D.C., law firm.

Laura Smith — spokeswoman for Smoke Free Wisconsin, part of Health First Wisconsin — said the state should increase funding for tobacco prevention and control instead of implementing the surcharge.

Walker's budget calls for $5.32 million a year for such efforts. As recently as 2008-09, the state spent nearly three times more.

Copyright 2015 Journal Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(9) Comments

  1. MarshallKeith
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    MarshallKeith - March 01, 2013 12:28 pm
    And won't you be surprised when you die from nothing!
  2. MarshallKeith
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    MarshallKeith - March 01, 2013 12:03 pm
    To add to what The Assembly Room said, Cigarette smuggling has become so lucrative that even drug dealers are getting involved. Who is more likely to sell cigarettes to children, the local tobacco store down the block or the drug dealer on the corner?
  3. MarshallKeith
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    MarshallKeith - March 01, 2013 12:00 pm
    All draconian acts like this accomplish is more smuggling. The only reason that anti-smoking groups are against this as opposed to taxes is that they don't get a piece of the pie. Of course they want to extort more money from the smokers in order to lobby against smokers.
  4. You Wish
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    You Wish - February 28, 2013 1:35 pm
    You'll be begging for mercy when your laying in your hospice bed gasping for that last "fresh" breath of air.

    Have at it, in fact, take an extra puff or three for me! lol


  5. Steffyweffy
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    Steffyweffy - February 28, 2013 12:18 pm
    Aurora raised our insurance for smokers 2 yrs ago. Only it wasn't $50, it was $90 a pay period or $180 a month. And it did help my hubs to stop smoking since it was costing us almost $400 between insurance and the cost of cigarettes.
  6. Joeboy5471
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    Joeboy5471 - February 28, 2013 11:00 am
    THe government is two faced when it comes to smoking. They beat up on the smokers anyway and any time they can but they sure want the revenue from them in taxes. My suggestion to Scotty is try it and you might like it. Take a drag and inhale deeply and hold it until further notice.
  7. Blindman
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    Blindman - February 27, 2013 9:49 pm
    Ya...What AssemblyRoom said.
  8. TheAssemblyRoom
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    TheAssemblyRoom - February 27, 2013 6:56 pm
    Nice one Blindman! Let us expand on that... As there are laws already on the books that will prevent the youth from having access to cigarettes... However our government doesn't enforce them... Real easy one, pull the tobacco license from the retailer that sells to a minor! Don't just slap their hand, no three strikes, it's a simple no tolerance rule. As for the insurance, women of child bearing years are more expensive then men of the same age and older people are more expensive then the young. People with preexisting conditions more then those that haven't had issues... So stop blaming smokers for insurance woes. As for raising taxes, it causes few to quit, all it does is forces the individual to look else where to purchase. So get off your pedestals and say thank you next time you see a smoker as they paid 587 million in excise tax in 2012... Taxes that you and I didn't have to pay to fund your frivolous programs..
  9. Blindman
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    Blindman - February 27, 2013 6:20 pm
    This is a bunch of BS...Get off smokers...We have rights just like anybody else...It's bad enough the communist movement ban harmless smokers from all buildings...We should be able to smoke anywhere,like the old days-grocery stores,hospitals etc....Don't bring up second hand smoke either,because it has not been proven...Just another example of the new wussy America-me me me,i want i want i want...Wa wa wa,the smoke bothers ME,so YOU shouldn't be free to do what you want...It's infuriating.
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