Washington Legislature Takes Smoking Down to the Millimeter

(Politician's Thinking Reaches New Low for Thought Permeability)

By Norman E. Kjono, February 1, 2007

We have yet another anti-tobacco bill before the Washington legislature. HB 1822, which amends Revised Code of Washington (RCW)  43.79A.040 states, in part: 

"New Section. Sec. 2. (1) Except as provided in subsection (7) pf this section, cigarettes may not be sold or offered for sale in this state or offered for sale or sold to persons located in this state unless the cigarettes have been tested in accordance with the test method and meet the performance standard specified in this section, a written certification has been filed by the manufacturer with the state director of fire protection in accordance with section 3 of this act, and the cigarettes have been marked in accordance with section 4 of this act." (Underline added.) 

Notes:  1. The bill is before the House Commerce and Labor Committee.

2. The companion Senate Bill is SB 5642

3. Subsection allows retail and wholesale sealers to exhaust existing inventories, provided they can prove the cigarettes were purchased prior to the effective date of the act.

4. The bill places extraordinarily burdensome testing, certification and record keeping requirements on manufacturers and requires that manufacturers print a symbol with the tax stamp on the pack to indicate the cigarettes are certificated.

5. The act provides that any manufacturer, wholesale dealer, agent, or other person-other than through retail sale-who violates the statute is liable for a civil penalty up to $10,000 for first offense and $25,000 for subsequent offenses. Retailers can be fined $500 for first offense and up to $2,000 for subsequent offenses. Those penalties apply to each offer to sell or sale. Manufacturers who file false certifications are liable to a civil penalty of $75,000 for the first offense and up to $250,000 for subsequent offenses. 

I have little doubt that those penalties will be a strong deterrent to smugglers. . . . About ten minutes after the first Marlboros hit stores smugglers will have a label they can duplicate on noncompliant cigarette packs.  

Subsection 2.(2) of the bill says, in part: 

"(2) Each cigarette listed in a certification submitted pursuant to section 3 of this act that uses lowered permeability bands in the cigarette paper to achieve compliance with the performance standard set forth in this section must have at least two nominally identical bands on the paper surrounding the tobacco column. At least one complete band must be located at least fifteen millimeters from the lighting end of the cigarette. For cigarettes on which the bands are positioned by design, there must be at least two bands fully located at least fifteen millimeters from the lighting end and ten millimeters from the filter end of the tobacco column, or ten millimeters from the labeled end of the tobacco column for nonfilter cigarettes." (Underline added.)  

Permeability refers to the ability to be permelated. It is derived from the word "permeate," which, according to Webster, is to "penetrate wholly, pervade, soak through." Based on that definition, it is apparent to me that reduced permeability head bands, to reduce interference by constructive thought, may be a requisite adornment for members of the Washington legislature. No thought counter to the anti-tobacco mantra is allowed to enter. It can be accurately said that his bill's 10 Democrat sponsors have chosen to permelate persons who lawfully consume legal cigarette tobacco products. Welcome to the world of being a permelatee.  

Many complained when Washington's Core Intolerants took smoking to the foot, with I-901's 25 foot rule. Further proof that anti-tobacco is an ever-expanding, all-encompassing, never-ending special-interest prohibition agenda is not necessary; they've now upped the anti by imposing rule new rules to the millimeter. The transparent purpose of this bill is to follow tobacco control's theme to make it increasingly more difficult and expensive to smoke, to assure the manufacturing and distribution of legal tobacco products is ever-more burdensome, and to negatively label persons who smoke cigarettes (now with a unique identifier on each pack) that loudly proclaims they are yet another threat to nonsmokers, this time by burning the house down. The bill would not apply to pipe tobacco and cigars or hooka pipes. 800,000-plus cigarette consumers are the sole and explicit "Targets" of this bill's sponsors. Remember that with uncommon clarity in November 2008.  

It is simply amazing how loudly campaign contributions from Nicotine Replacement Therapy distributor GlaxoSmithKline, plus grants to the state and counties by NRT Manufacturer Johnson & Johnson's namesake (the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation), speak to some politicians. The more expensive and less desirable or usable cigarettes become the more Core Intolerants are inclined believe that smokers will be to use inferior nicotine replacement delivery device products.  

The appropriate response to this bill-beyond reporting yet another frenzy-driven, manic fixation on smoking by some opportunistic politicians-is to say or do nothing. They'll probably try to sell this one as a personal safety bill for smokers, to stop them from self-immolation. Which makes about as much sense as claiming that boosting folks out of their houses for smoking is "compassionate" (see my January 29, 2007 column "Susan Meets Susan"   In her January 29  work "Smokes Are In for Another Battle" (linked in that commentary) Seattle Post-Intelligencer columnist wrote: 

"It's no mystery that the mission of Public Health's Tobacco Prevention Program is to make it harder to smoke and easier to quit. But you may not know that your local QFC and Safeway are receiving gentle nudges to at least consider curtailing cigarette sales. Meanwhile, for the past year, with compassion in mind and nicotine patches in hand, the program has approached homeless shelters and other such agencies offering to help any clients who may like to kick the habit." (underline added.)

 

Those who doubt the influence that pharmaceutical advertising can have on mainstream media's editorial and news content should read the above quote again. The multi-million-dollar private connection of state and county health departments-such as King County Washington, where the health department compassionately hands the homeless nicotine patches as a substitute for meal vouchers, apparently including kids on the patch-is also transparent. See King County Health NRT Advocacy.  

The absence of a legitimate, bona fide problem that the bill may ostensibly solve, as well as its transparent intent and the mercantile agenda behind it are clear. Attempting to change the mind of legislators who trade in their constituents' legitimate interests for political expedience, campaign donations and state grants is somewhat akin to convincing George W. that fiscal responsibility is not achieved by pouting $400 billion plus into the vain search for Weapons of Mass Destruction that did not exist in Iraq. Washington Democrats go one better: at least 'ol George had flawed intelligence reports to back up his decision. On this bill, flawed intelligence made the decision. 

Like HB 1154, which would institutionalize employment discrimination against persons who use tobacco products (see Washington's Jim Crow Legislators) all of the sponsors for this bill are Democrats. 

House Bill 1822's sponsors are: Simpson, Haigh, Appleton, Moeller, Darneille, Williams, Hunt, Hurst, Ormsby, Schual-Berke 

Representatives Simpson, Appleton, Williams, and Ormsby also sponsored job discrimination HB 1154.  

Companion Senate Bill 5642's sponsors are: Kohl-Welles, Rockefeller, Franklin, Tom 

We also need not debate the opportunistic, intolerance-driven political motivations behind this bill. See, for example what Rep. Shaul-Berke said about cigarettes during April 21, 2005 House floor debate about a 60 cent cigarette tax increase (ESHB 2314): 

"I'm OK with just doing the tobacco tax. We don't even have to dedicate it to education, and I'm not going to worry about the fact that some day we may tax it out of existence. We'll cross that bridge when we get to it." (Underline added.)  

Her Sentiments were echoed by Rep. Lynn Kessler, who didn't want to hear about any hardship that cigarette taxes imposed: 

"Cigarettes and alcohol are the most discretionary buying any of us will probably make. I don't think this will break up families. I don't think that the earth will be shattered. I think we will be just fine. And if people choose to go to their stores, to their liquor stores, and buy alcohol, if they choose to buy cigarettes, I think that's fine. But it is their choice. I urge your support of this bill because these taxes that we're talking about are discretionary. And because we are focusing the cigarette tax on education. . . . I don't want to hear a lot about how people are suffering from this. Don't buy the cigarettes, don't buy the bottles of gin, don't pay the tax." (Underline added.)

 

Now-Senator Rodney Tom was the sponsor of a house bill for a$1.00 per pack new tax on cigarettes in 2005. He changed his political party to Democrat when he campaigned for the senate in 2006. I wrote about Senator Kohl-Welles' views in my October 11, 2006 column "They're Beginning to Get It In Colorado"   

Suffice it to say that current anti-tobacco bills before the Washington legislature are uniquely Democrat. It also bears mentioning that we observe the unfavorable impact of one party control of the executive branch and both legislative houses combined with the undue influence of pharmaceutical money in state agencies and campaign donations.  

As things stand now Washington Democrats may well set a record for two events: the shortest control of legislative and executive branches of government and the most transparently abusive exercise of special-interest influence in the history of the state. 

Don't whine, follow the issues and vote. Read, become informed, take notes, remember. Then express your opinion on the ballot. 

Norman E. Kjono


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