SENIOR MOMENTS: Yes on Proposition 29

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By PHIL SHIGEKUNI

Proposition 29 has my attention for many reasons. It would raise close to $800 million by adding one dollar to the cost of a pack of cigarettes. The money would be spent on cancer research, as well as programs to discourage young people from starting to smoke.

As might be expected, the cigarette industry has opposed the proposition and has thrown $20 million to bring about its defeat. In their oft-repeated ad, there is the man in a white coat who says he is opposed because the money raised in California would not benefit Californians, but would be spent out of state. Besides, he says, there would be no control concerning how the money would be spent. It is also states that not one penny would be spent on treatment.

L.A. Times columnist George Skelton, in his May 14 column, refutes these tobacco company arguments: There would be a nine-member oversight commission made up of Californians awarding research contracts. They would award these contracts to mainly California research facilities.

Skelton quotes former State Sen. Don Perata, a prostate cancer survivor, who says that in today’s global economy it is not uncommon for major research institutions, such as UCLA or Stanford, to sometimes collaborate with other major institutions such as Johns Hopkins or Harvard Medical School. To say this is spending California tax money out of state is a gross exaggeration.

Yes, the money would not be spent on cancer treatment.  It would be spent on sorely needed cancer research.

Adult smoking in the U.S. has declined significantly in recent years. At the same time, smoking amongst the young, tragically, has taken a sharp rise. Part of the revenue raised by Proposition 29 would be used to counter this trend. In my later years as a high school counselor I conducted counseling sessions for students who had been caught smoking, or had cigarettes in their possession. I could see, first-hand, the powerful hold nicotine had on the young people.

Skelton cites U.S. District Judge Gladys E. Kessler of Washington, D.C., who in a landmark 2006 decision said that for more than 50 years the tobacco industry had “lied, misrepresented and deceived the American public, including smokers and the young people they avidly sought as replacement smokers, about the devastating health effects of smoking.” In addition, “they suppressed research, they destroyed documents, they manipulated the use of nicotine so as to increase and perpetuate addiction, they distorted the truth so as to discourage smokers from quitting. Their lethal product causes an immeasurable amount of human suffering and a profound burden on our national health-care system.”

Judge Kessler found the major cigarette makers guilty of fraud and racketeering. The Supreme Court later rejected the tobacco companies’ appeal.

We need to consider the tobacco companies’ track record as we see the anti-Proposition 29 ads on TV and in other media.

I was very disappointed to read in The L.A. Times an editorial opposing Proposition 29.  This position is being used by the anti-29 forces. It makes me wonder about the extent to which the $20 million that the tobacco companies are spending can somehow affect the position taken by a respected newspaper.

In recent years the federal government has cut back on cancer research grants, making Proposition 29 crucially necessary.

This issue is close to me.  Both my parents died of lung cancer at age 75, a year apart.

George Skelton, in his closing paragraph, summarizes neatly: Proposition 29 would increase cancer research, reduce smoking, save lives. Hurt the lying tobacco companies. Good plan.

Phil Shigekuni writes from San Fernando Valley and can be contacted at [email protected] The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.

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