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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Issue of the Week: Up In Smoke

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Wisconsin has just marked its first full year as a nonsmoking state. Sure, some hard-core smokers are having difficulty making the transition, but for the most part state residents like the ban on indoor smoking in most public places. Even Gov. Scott Walker, who had vowed to repeal the ban during the gubernatorial campaign, has decided that a smoke-free Wisconsin is best for our health and work environment and will keep the ban intact.

So what's a tobacco company to do?

Well, it could try to work its magic with new tobacco products—you know, these new fruit-flavored snuff products in bright, candy-colored packaging that younger kids would be more likely to try.

The problem is that the tobacco companies didn't like the way that these products were taxed. Neither did the Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC), the state's big-business lobby. So they made it a priority issue.

And lo and behold: Joint Finance Committee co-chair Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) and state Sen. Luther Olsen (R-Ripon), two Republican senators facing recall in August, added an amendment to the state budget that would change the way these products are taxed. The change would bring about a windfall for Big Tobacco companies, reported the Center for Media and Democracy's PR Watch, and get more kids hooked on the next generation of tobacco products.

Darling and Olsen's kiddie tobacco amendment was so awful that Walker vetoed it from the final budget.

Darling's JFC also cut state funding for tobacco use control programs by 20%, double the cut that Walker had proposed.

Darling received a $1,000 campaign contribution from Altria/Philip Morris USA in November.

Looks like Big Tobacco bought the best senator they could buy. Thankfully, Alberta Darling couldn't close the deal.

Heroes of the Week

BloodCenter of Wisconsin Donors and Volunteers

Quietly going about the business of saving lives every day, the BloodCenter of Wisconsin collects and distributes blood, tissue, organs and marrow for patients at 60 hospitals in 29 counties throughout the state. Volunteers regularly help out at the center's café, perform administrative assistance and aid with mobile blood drives.

Donors literally give of themselves to help save the lives of strangers. A single blood donation can help as many as three patients. Nearly 800 blood donors a day are needed to supply the hospitals served by the BloodCenter of Wisconsin.

Readers who wish to volunteer at the center should call 414-937-6364 or visit www.bcw.edu. Those who wish to make a life-saving donation can stop by the “Make a Difference Blood Drive” at the Pettit National Ice Center (500 S. 84th St.) on Friday, July 29, from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Event of the Week

Tad Daley, Author of 'Apocalypse Never'

Tad Daley, author of Apocalypse Never: Forging the Path to a Nuclear Weapon-Free World, a book about the urgent need to abolish nuclear weapons, will speak in Milwaukee on Friday, July 29. Daley argues that while global climate change poses the single greatest long-term peril to the human race, the nuclear challenge in its many incarnations—nuclear terror, nuclear accident, a nuclear crisis spinning out of control—poses the single most immediate peril to the planet.

Daley's talk, at 7 p.m. on Friday, July 29, at the Friends/Quakers Meeting House, 3224 N. Gordon Pl., is free and open to the public. A number of local progressive organizations are sponsoring the event.