Category Archives: Montana

Complaint filed over Big Tobacco-funded effort to oppose Montana tobacco tax

A group is proposing a $2 a pack tax increase to help raise funding for Medicaid in Montana.

For Montana, that is a big tax increase and such a proposal is likely fighting an uphill climb in maybe the most Libertarian state in the country. You might be surprised to know that about 10 years ago, Montana voters did approve a $1 a pack cigarette tax hike. But, times have changed. People have become more extreme in their positions since then.

Anyway, the group behind the measure, Healthy Montana, filed a complaint against a group opposing the measure — Montanans Against Tax Hikes, for illegal campaign behaviour, including not reporting expenditures and making illegal robocalls to Montana voters.

First thing I thought was, “oh, I bet MATH is actually funded by Big Tobacco.”

Sure enough, from a Missoula Current article:

The complaint says Chuck Denowh, the treasurer for MATH, also filed a letter with the Montana attorney general in April, “opposing the proposed ballot statements for I-185 on behalf of Altria Client Services LLC and Rai Services Company, whose parent companies dominate the tobacco market, controlling roughly 86% of the market share in 2016.”

Sure enough, as we all know Altria is the company formerly known as Philip Morris. And Rai Services Company, I had to Google. It’s the parent company of — you guessed it — RJ Reynolds.

Quelle shock, huh? So MATH is bankrolled pretty directly by Big Tobacco.

Anyway, this just blew me away, incredibly, one of the robocalls offered people $100 if they called back. I’d love to know if anyone actually received their $100.

Montana’s current tobacco tax is $1.70 a pack, which is almost exactly the national average ($1.68 a pack).

Anyway, in addition to the cigarette tax increase, the proposal would also increase smokeless tobacco taxes by 33 percent and taxes on vaping products. I’ll be keeping on eye on this ballot measure in November. Again, this being Montana, where the sheep are nervous and the taxes are detested, I can’t hold my breath about its chances.

 

Rural Montana bar says smoking ban putting it out of business

turah bar
Here is a big article about a rural bar in Montana that says the state’s smoking ban, implemented 18 months ago, is driving it out of business. The business completely ignored the state’s smoking ban, racked up thousands of dollars in fines, and then finally was forced to start complying. But, now the bar owner says the ban is driving her out of business.

I gotta call bullshit on this, I really do. I am on record as saying I can believe smoking bans hurt certain kinds of bars — sleazy little corner taverns and maybe little country bars, but to completely destroy your revenue. Whenever I hear these horror stories, I really want to say, “I want to see your books.” I suspect that most of the time these bar owners make these doom and gloom pronouncements about smoking bans, they aren’t lying per se, but they are exaggerating.

I also had a bit of a hard-ass attitude that perhaps some bars will be driven out of business by smoking bans — perhaps. But, there’s no one making money anymore making asbestos roof shakes. No one makes money anymore making mercury thermometers. Why? Because they were UNHEALTHY. Economies change. They evolve. They just do. Sometimes people get hurt. Smoky bars are a thing of the past and people just need to accept that. It’s not going to change.