One of Iowa’s largest religious organizations is lobbying for the one-dollar-per-pack increase in the state cigarette tax. Iowa Catholic Conference executive director Tom Chapman spoke this morning at a news conference on the statehouse steps.
“We support this legislation as a way to provide insurance and other important health care services for those in need in the state of Iowa,” Chapman said. “We believe that health care is a basic human right.” Governor Culver has proposed using the extra tax revenue from a cigarette tax hike to provide health care coverage to the 50-thousand Iowa kids who are not covered today, as well as about 65-hundred of those kids’ parents.
Chapman says his church also is swayed by the fact that the higher tax may prompt some smokers to quit, or keep others from taking up the habit. “We’re very much a pro-life church and life is our number one issue and this is going to a lot of save lives,” Chapman says. “…The tax itself will take down the consumption and then the money from the tax could be used for health care and access to health care is one of our most important priorities as a Catholic Conference.”
Also this morning, Lieutenant Governor Patty Judge, who’s a Catholic, confessed to being a former smoker. “I know the life-changing benefits of a tobacco-free lifestyle,” Judge said. “I have been smoke-free for over 20 years. I believe I will live a longer, healthier life because of that decision.” While the spokesman for the Iowa Catholic Conference focused on the money that will be raised if the cigarette tax goes up, the lieutenant governor stresses the idea the that tax hike will prevent kids from taking up the habit, and prompt some smokers to quit.
“Those opposed to the tax have several reasons why they do, but no one can argue with the fact that raising the tax will save lives,” Judge said. Governor Culver is urging Iowans to contact their state representatives and pressure them to vote “yes” on the cigarette tax increase. The Iowa House is scheduled to debate the subject Tuesday, but House leaders have said they’re unsure whether they have the 51 “yes” votes necessary to pass the bill.
Culver says he’s optimistic the bill will pass. “We want Iowans to weigh in and to encourage their state representative to support this,” Culver says. “You never know until the vote is called as to whether or not you have the votes. I expect that we’ll get this passed tomorrow.”