Rep. Mitch Greenlick wants to criminalize cigarettes

NW Watchdog logo thb Rep. Mitch Greenlick wants to criminalize cigarettes

by Shelby Sebens, Northwest Watchdog

Oregon lawmaker wants to criminalize cigarettes, will settle for higher tax

PORTLAND – State Rep. Mitch Greenlick says nicotine is as dangerous as heroin and methamphetamine. He figures cigarettes ought to be illegal.

He knows it will never happen in Oregon. But that hasn’t stopped the Democratic lawmaker, who represents Portland and some unincorporated areas of surrounding Multnomah County. Since he took office in 2003, he’s been working for a higher cigarette tax in the state. And since 2009, he’s been pushing (you’ll pardon the pun) a bill that would make it a crime to possess nicotine without a physician’s prescription.

When the new legislative session starts in February, Greenlick will be at it again.

“My ultimate goal is not to make it illegal,” he said of smoking. “That’s just not going to happen. But my ultimate goal is to reduce smoking.”

The prescription bill, he said, is designed to get people talking.

That approach has drawn the ire of those who think government time should be spent on proposals that will actually move the needle. In the 2011 legislative session, Greenlick, in addition to his smoking prescription legislation, introduced a bill to tax soda pop and a proposal to prohibit children under 6 from riding in bike trailers.

“He had clogged up the legislature with a tidal wave of nanny-state bills that took away our freedom and personal responsibility,” Jason Williams, state director of the Taxpayer Association of Oregon, said.

Greenlick’s bills have won him the conservative group’s “Wiener Politician of the Year” award, also known as the “Worst Politician of the Year” among the associations’ members.

The idea to require prescriptions for smokes morphed out of a debate Greenlick was having with colleagues in 2009 over “the evils of tobacco” when someone asked him why he didn’t just push for it to be illegal.

State Rep. Mitch Greenlick wants smokers to get a prescription before lighting up

“I think people strongly felt that having politicians try to take more control away from our lives was a big negative,” Williams said. “For politicians to devote their time to things that will never happen vs. things that have to happen really only continue our budget crisis.”

Greenlick says his drive to raise cigarette taxes and reduce smoking comes from his many years in the medical field. He worked as director of the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research and vice president for research at Kaiser Foundation Hospitals for more than 30 years, until he retired in 1995.

“My work is personal. You spend so much time watching people die of heart attacks and smoking is a preventable cause,” he said, noting the many health conditions caused by smoking, including emphysema. “I believe I want to help every last smoker to stop smoking. It’s important to their life. It’s a very difficult way to die when you can’t breathe out.”

Greenlick, who is up for re-election in November, gets some financial support from the medical industry, including campaign contributions of $2,500 from the Oregon Nurses Political Action Committee and $500 from the Family Physicians of Oregon PAC this month, according to Secretary of State Elections Division campaign finance records. Republican Stevan Kirkpatrick is challenging Greenlick for the District 33 seat.

Greenlick wants to also increase the cigarette tax by about a dollar from its current rate at $1.18 a pack. That legislation could actually get some debate. It failed in 2011 by a vote of 30-30.

The state’s Legislative Revenue Office projects a $2 cigarette tax would bring in an additional $100 million. Greenlick has no plans to funnel more of that money into tobacco-cessation programs. The tobacco prevention program got about 11 million of the $410 million brought in by the cigarette tax in the 2009-2011 biennium. The rest went to the state’s general fund and other state and local agencies for undetermined purposes, according to the Oregon Department of Revenue.

Greenlick said he just hopes the increased tax will discourage smokers.

When compared to the rest of the country, Oregon is on the lower end of the cigarette tax spectrum, with the highest rate in New York at $4.35 a pack and Missouri at the lowest at 17 cents a pack. The federal government also increased the tax on a 20 pack of cigarettes by 39 cents to $1.01, according to data collected by facethefactsusa.org.

Northwest Watchdog is a project of the Franklin Center for Government & Public Integrity

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Posted by at 05:00 | Posted in Government Regulation, State Taxes | 43 Comments |Email This Post Email This Post |Print This Post Print This Post
  • Rupert in Springfield

    >Greenlick said he just hopes the increased tax will discourage smokers.

    Liberals think taxes on things they don’t like discourages the behavior.

    Yet when they tax productivity they expect you to believe

    A – Its not true that they don’t like the productive.
    B – It doesn’t discourage productivity.

    Congratulations Mitch Greenlick – You have just reach the summit of Bullshit Mountain.

    • valley person

      I’m almost afraid to ask, but how is “productivity” taxed exactly?

      • http://www.facebook.com/dvgulliver David Gulliver

        It’s called “income” tax you idiot.

        • 3H

          That is a tax on income, not productivity. Perhaps if you weren’t so intent on name calling, you would realize there is a difference.

    • PinkSwines

      So then you don’t believe that taxation discourages behaviour?

      • 3H

        I don’t think it’s necessarily taxation, but cost (and taxation adds, obviously, to the cost). So the real question is probably better framed as, does the increased cost of a pack of cigarettes result in fewer smokers?

        It depends upon the price. A 1 cent increase on a pack will probably have not effect. At some point, though, a threshold is crossed where smokers start to wonder if the price is worth the fix. The question is, what is that price?

        Smoking is one of those habits where many of the costs become socialized (to borrow from David Appell). The various costs of smoking related conditions and diseases are ultimately spread out among everyone in an insurance pool, or from hospitals raising prices to care for the indigent (which makes it back to the rising cost of health care paid by all).

        I haven’t even touched on the aesthetic issue of cigarette butts everywhere, or the hideous smell that is forced on people standing nearby.

        Note: I have pretty strong opinions after living with my mother, a 2-pack a day smoker for the first 19 years of my life, who eventually died of lung cancer. This no doubt colors my beliefs.

  • Smoky Signales

    A related issue, sort of – would The tax paying Grange be smoke free?
    Off course, tribal casinos doe-s’not.

  • Judahlevi

    The ‘Big Brother’ attitude of Democrat politicians is revealing of their “ultimate goal.” They are control freaks. They want to control everything an individual does all in the name of “doing it for your own good.” As we know, you can use that ‘justification’ to control all personal behavior.

    They will use speech codes to control what you can or cannot say. They will use taxes to force you to change your behavior. They will use police power to punish you for using free speech rights to make a film about Islam. They will criminalize behavior they don’t agree with.

    But remember, they are doing it for your own good.

    • Rupert in Springfield

      Very true. Almost as dependable will be the standard plea of ignorance when this is pointed out on a future thread – the lefts desire to control everyone. “Who me?”

      • 3H

        I think it’s rather simplistic, and wrong, to claim that the left desires to control everyone. It’s as much of a canard as the belief that the right only cares about money and not a whit about anyone who doesn’t have it.

    • 3H

      “They will use police power to punish you for using free speech rights to make a film about Islam. “

      Where has police power been used to punish someone for making a film about Islam?

      Republicans have their own issues with Free Speech and individual liberty. There are quite a few conservatives and Republicans (and Democrats too) who are in favor of a flag burning amendment to the Constitution; who are in favor of anti-pornography laws; who attempt to restrict the ability of same-sex couples to get married; who wish to restrict the ability of Muslims to build mosques and community centers.

      The picture is a lot more nuanced and confused than you make it out to be. There are a large number of Democrats and liberals that are not in favor of free-speech restrictions. Republicans and conservatives have speech they don’t like (and they seek to limit). Republicans and conservatives have social issues that they would like to legislate and restrict.

      I think it’s better to call out legislators, political leaders and parties on a case-by-case basis when they attempt to restrict basic liberties instead of forcing everyone into a false dichotomy that hides more than it illuminates.

      • Judahlevi

        That is your opinion, but I disagree. I look at the basic underlying philosophical principles which Democrats and Republicans believe in, and it is the Democrat’s philosophy which leads to collectivism and totalitarianism, not the Republicans.

        • 3H

          How do you square the peg in that Republicans are as likely as Democrats to legislate against individual rights, especially when it comes to social issues?

          • Judahlevi

            3h, I don’t feel any need to “square” the peg. I am perfectly happy with being round. Besides, any political philosophy which leads to “totalitarianism” is de facto more controlling.

          • 3H

            That, of course, is the assumption that you are operating from. I obviously feel differently, and I certainly would not count myself a totalitarian, quite the opposite in fact. On what basis do you come to the conclusion that Democrats are totalitarians at heart?

            Also, I was interested in what you meant about the use of police power to punish producers and directors in exercising their free speech rights to make a film about Islam.

          • Judahlevi

            Democrats are leftists who believe in collective identification, big government, and redistribution schemes from private individuals to the collective – all of which will lead to totalitarianism.

            They believe in class warfare where the envy of small people is channeled into hate of those who have more than they do. You see that in the Democrat’s campaign of 2012. This is Marx’s old tripe of the proletariats versus the aristocrats, a common leftist theme which leads to redistribution of wealth and totalitarianism.

            The left has given us Nazism, Fascism, Maoism, and Communism – all of which were totalitarian and caused the deaths of millions. As fellow leftists, Democrats base their political philosophy on the same principles as these poltiical systems. Ultimately, that philosophy will lead to totalitarianism. The book “1984” is an accurate vision of where the Democrat’s philosophy will ultimately lead.

          • 3H

            I was hoping for something a little more concrete. By the way, neither the Nazis nor the Italian Fascists were leftists. Mussolini certainly started out as a socialist, but that is not where he ended up. There were socialist elements in the Nazi party, but any residual socialism in the NDSAP was purged by the 1930s. Unless, of course, you are willing to have the actions of conservatives in history, and countries other than the Untied States, hung around your neck.

            Secondly, it is an error to point to foreign countries and to assume that everyone on the left are kindred spirits. It is a narrow view of history that heavily relies on cherry-picking of facts.

            There is no such thing as “leading to” – except in hindsight, and I don’t believe there is anything in what Democrats believe that will lead to such a state. At least no more so than Republicans.

            Class warfare, or the politics of “us” vs. “them” have been prevalent in this country from the very beginning. And, Romney’s comments about the %47 certainly illustrate class warfare on the part of Republicans.

            In the whole, I think you don’t take a big picture view of Democrats and only pay attention to those elements that seem (and I stress seem) to validate your beliefs.

            Having said all that, I appreciate your responding to me, even if I cannot accept your dark and pessimistic view of Democrats and liberals.

          • DavidAppell

            3H: No nuances, please — you’re going to confuse a very carefully constructed black-and-white view of the world.

          • Judahlevi

            Oh yes, David, we know how ‘open-minded’ you are.

            Give me a break.

          • Judahlevi

            As always, you are entitled to your opinion – but you are wrong. Nazism and Fascism are leftist philosophies. Both considered their parties revolutionaries, both were “workers” parties, both subordinated the individual to the state, and both were collectivist. The left wing of political philosophy ends with totalitarianism, the right wing ends with anarchy.

            You are also mistaken to brush off the fact that the underlying philosophies of political parties will ultimately drive their decisions. As the left gains more power, they will become even more controlling than they are today. As government grows, individual rights contract. The intolerance of the left for any dissent (this is demonstrated easily by the name-calling, hate-filled, violent reactions of leftists to conservative viewpoints) caused the most recent case of the 28 year old teacher with a masters degree going to the Family Research Council with a handgun to murder them only because of their support of traditional marriage.

            The leftist philosophy throughout history confirms their collectivist and bloody agenda, and although it may have a few nationalistic tweaks, it is the same agenda for all leftists – power.

            As for Romney’s comment, please, spare me the Huffington Post opinion. If I wanted that, I would not be on this site.

          • DavidAppell

            Re: “name-calling”

            Rarely does a poster so perfectly align with his own criticism.

            It’s too perfect, really — “JudahLevi” has to be a plant.

          • Judahlevi

            No, David, wrong again. I am actually a mammal, not a plant. Are all liberals like you?

          • 3H

            The left wing of political philosophy ends with totalitarianism, the right wing ends with anarchy.

            So, would you consider yourself an anarchist? Or that if we go down the conservative road that we will end up with anarchy? Would you consider anarchy to be better than totalitarianism?

            Putting aside the debate, since we’ll never agree, on the left necessarily leading to totalitarianism – or that all leftest ideologies can so easily be lumped together let me leave you with one thought: Just because the NDSAP had the word “worker” it it, does not make it a worker’s party. No more than the old East Germany, the DDR, was a Republic or Democratic.

            The fact is, everyone in Germany, including the Nazis, understood that they were a right wing party. The conservatives in Germany supported the NDSAP against the Socialists and Communists, as did the leaders of German industry and finance. You’re going to have a difficult time reconciling those facts with the idea the Nazis were a left-wing party; no one in Germany thought of them as left wing. The problem was that various right-wing politicians and parties thought Hitler was a bumpkin whom they could easily control.

          • Judahlevi

            3h, I know old paradigms are hard to break, but you really need re-learn some history. Nazis were leftists which drew their inspiration from fascists. Conservatives do not worship dictators, we depise them.

            Look at the way some Democrats worship Obama and even faint at his rallies. That is Nazi and Fascist type collectivism, not conservative individualism. We would never say we all “belong” to the state like Democrats did at their convention. We don’t envy other people’s success like Democrats – we cheer for them.

            And yes, anarchy would be better than totalitarianism.

          • 3H

            Exactly on what basis have you concluded that the Nazis were leftists? No one in Germany at the time considered them leftists, and they probably had a better grasp of the political spectrum than we did. But, I’m willing to entertain your evidence.

            Oddly, for a leftist group, the Nazis fought along side in the streets with other right-wing groups against the socialist and communists.

            Keep in mind being a statist is not the same thing as being a leftist. Germans had a long history of deferring to the state and military (which were inextricably intertwined) when it was a monarchy. Old habits die hard, and it was only 15 years from the end of the German Empire to the election of Hitler as chancellor in 1933.

            Just to throw in a little more context, the anarchist movement grew out of the Communists. Marx predicted the withering away of the state once capitalist property relations had been abolished (because those relations could only exist by the use of the coercive power of the state). Can you get any more leftist than Marx? So, technically speaking, anarchy would be a leftist philosophy as well. Now that’s gotta make someone’s head spin.

            You may prefer anarchy to totalitarianism, but would you say that your ideology and philosophy will inescapably lead to anarchy? That those are ultimately are two choices: anarchy or totalitarianism? How long will that take, and why has it not happened yet?

          • Judahlevi

            “Everything must be different!” or “Alles muss anders sein!” was a slogan of the Nazi Party. It is also the heart’s desire of every Leftist since Karl Marx. Nazism was a deeply revolutionary creed, a fact that is always denied by the Left; but it’s true. Hitler and his criminal gang hated the rich, the capitalists, the Jews, the Christian Churches, and “the System”. ”

            These are leftist themes, not of those on the right. Hitler was a lowly artist nearly begging on the streets of Vienna when he started coming up with his political ideas. He considered himself a man of the people (volks) not a member of the traditional classes.

            “How often our bourgeoisie rises up in moral indignation on hearing from the mouth of some pitiable tramp that it is all the same to him whether he be a German or not and that he will find himself at home wherever he can get enough to keep body and soul together. They protest sternly against such a lack of ‘national pride’ and strongly express their horror at such sentiments.”

            A quote from “Mein Kampf.” Hitler was a socialist, not capitalist.

          • 3H

            Sorry, that is referencing nationalism, not socialism. Hitler agreed with the sentiment expressed by the bourgeoisie… he was, beyond being an opportunist, a nationalist first before anything else. To the list of groups he hated, you forgot socialists and communists.

            Your willingness to assume that being a capitalist or socialist is what defined Hitler is to completely misread the man and distort the historical record. He was quite at home with the hyper-nationalist right and worked with various Freikorp groups to fight against, internationalist socialists and communists who were his primary enemies along with the Jews
            You are are taking the word “volk” and using the literal definition: “people”. For Hitler it had a broader meaning.. the Volk would be all pure and true Germans and has nothing to do with economic status or class.
            You of course, are entitled to your opinion even if it is, as it seems to be, to be colored and warped by your own ideology and what you want it to be… not what it was.

          • Judahlevi

            Hitler was complaining about the sentiments of the bourgeoisie, not agreeing with it. His sympathies were with the “pitiable tramp.” If you cannot discern that, there is nothing left to discuss. I have read the entire book – and your comment displays nothing but ignorance of the subject.

            Volk does not mean “pure and true Germans”. Hitler himself was Austrian, not German. “Ein Volk” as the Nazi slogan meant one “nation”, not one race or people.

            And of course your own “ideology” has no impact on your thinking whatsoever. Your worldview is completely innocent of any coloring or bias. Anyone who believes that is naive – which many of your kind are.

            This discussion was a waste of time. It won’t happen again.

          • 3H

            How quickly you become dismissive when the conversation doesn’t go your way.

            No, my ideology has nothing to do with my understanding of Hitler and Nazi Germany. Unlike you, I have no desire to connect Hitler to either Democrats or Republicans – that would be a useless comparison since neither party has anything, in ideology or philosophy, in common with Hitler.

            You are right about the meaning of Volk.. it was an ethnic designation that covered Germans, Austrians (German Austrians) Scandinavians and and the English and I incorrectly ascribed it to being solely German. It was not, however, a reference to economic class and status.

            This discussion was only a waste of time, evidently, because I did not simply accept your view of German history. I’m sorry if honest debate upsets and unsettles you so much.

            Let me leave you with a quote:

            “The Jewish doctrine of Marxism repudiates the aristocratic principle of Nature and substitutes for it the eternal privilege of force and energy, numerical mass and its dead weight. Thus it denies the individual worth of the human personality, impugns the teaching that nationhood and race have a primary significance, and by doing this it takes away the very foundations of human existence and human civilization. If the Marxist teaching were to be accepted as the foundation of the life of the universe, it would lead to the disappearance of all order that is conceivable to the human mind. And thus the adoption of such a law would provoke chaos in the structure of the greatest organism that we know, with the result that the inhabitants of this earthly planet would finally disappear.”

    • ardbeg

      Only Liberals play Big Bro? Wake up! Not trying to pick a fight! Just realize is it’s both sides no matter what color glasses your wearing.

    • 3H

      I’m still curious about, “They will use police power to punish you for using free speech rights to make a film about Islam.” Was that just hyperbole, or do you have an actual incident in mind?

  • http://www.facebook.com/kat.j.olsen Kat Olsen

    Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The pursuit of happiness is different for everyone, and the freedom to do that is what makes this country great. Smokers DO NOT need the government to decide that for them. Neither do people who like to read, or garden or engage in dangerous sporting activities, etc, etc, etc. The last thing America needs is ONE MORE DAMN LAW!

    • Judahlevi

      Kat, I absolutely agree. It is not the government’s job to determine what activity Americans may engage in, which may cause a “negative health implication”, and then tax that activity. There are numerous individual activities which may be “harmful”, do we tax all of them?

    • ardbeg

      Totally agree but……I don’t think anyone but they (smokers) should pay for their health care needs. And………I don’t want their stupid choice to affect my insurance rates. As long as that happens I’m fine with stupid people quickening their painful deaths.

      • DavidAppell

        Should people who are overweight affect your insurance rates? Those who mountain climb or race bicycles? Hike near poison ivy? Drive a car smaller than average? Higher than average (more prone to rollovers)?

        Once you start slicing out the population, you will get sliced out yourself, for some reason or another. So how about we cover everyone, and help people stop smoking, lose weight, and be healthier?

        • ardbeg

          “So how about we cover everyone, and help people stop smoking, lose weight, and be healthier?” Agreed! I don’t have a problem with universal coverage but that doesn’t mean I should pay more for people who live a costly unhealthy lifestyle. I get better insurance rates because factors used to calculate rates favor someone like me. I want everyone to be able to AFFORD health care, not be given FREE health care no matter what their life style choices. Do people who make less money pay less in taxes? Yes. OK. Should people who make less money pay less for insurance? Yes. OK. Should the choices they make about smoking, drug use, sitting on the couch and eating McD’s affect their rates? Yes, OK.

  • marvinmcconoughey

    I don’t often agree with Representative Greenlick, but a higher tax on tobacco products (not just cigarettes) is reasonable in light of the negative health cost implications of smoking, the lavish advertising programs of tobacco companies, and the risk of addiction after a very short experimentation with tobacco. As a very general tax policy note, we should broadly raise taxes on harmful activities in preference to raising taxes on meritorious goods and services.

  • Oregon Engineer

    What I really like is that the same idiots that keep voting for this nimrod vote in the General election too. No wonder things are so messed up with government at all levels. We allow idiots to vote.

    • Judahlevi

      One of the drawbacks of democracy is that you will indeed have “idiots” who vote. In this case, you have people who will vote for this politician only because he has a “D” after his name. Ignorance is bliss.

  • tuffypug

    Get off our backs. You could become a casualty in the next election.

  • mike

    Finally someone who gets it. They are bad and should be outlawed. I am not going to pay taxes to help some idiot who smoked and then got sick.
    Just not going to do it.

  • Smoke smoke smoke

    Greenlick is a nice guy, but, as anyone who’s ever dealt with him knows, he’s not too bright.

  • DavidAppell

    If a new product was introduced today that, when used as designed, was expected to kill over 400,000 Americans a year, would it be approved by anyone?

    Of course not.

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