Smoke for someone else's health

Wisconsin State Roundup

Published March 1, 2007  | March 2007 issue

Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle has garnered a lot of attention with two proposals related to smoking.

In December, Doyle proposed raising the cigarette tax by at least $1, and possibly as much as $1.25, with the additional money being earmarked to expand state-based health insurance, including easier eligibility into Medicaid, and the creation of a reinsurance program for catastrophic care so small businesses can afford to insure employees more easily. Together, the two measures would cut the number of uninsured individuals by more than half.

But ironically, funding for the program would be undermined by a January proposal to ban smoking statewide in all work and public places, including restaurants and bars. Between higher taxes and restrictions on where people can smoke, state officials project that resulting tax income would decline by $40 million in the second year as people start kicking the habit.

Ronald A. Wirtz