Your tax dollars subsidize cigarette ads.
Tobacco products are deadly. They unquestionably contribute to a host of health problems. In spite of the dangers of tobacco products and the huge economic costs they cause, the people of this country subsidize the promotion of these products by providing tax deductions for advertising costs. Therefore, I have introduced legislation (HR 3950) which would remove the tax subsidy for promoting these lethal products.
Tobacco products, cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products are associated with 350,000 premature deaths per year. This is more than the total number of American lives lost in World War I, Korea and Vietnam combined and nearly as many as were lost in World War II. Smoking is the largest single preventable cause of illness and death in the United States.
Lung cancer is the health problem most clearly associated with tobacco smoking. Smoking accounted for more than 130,000 lung cancer deaths in 1984 and is implicated in 30 percent of all cancers.
Smoking is also associated with death and disability from heart disease, chronic obstructive lung disease and burns. Pregnant women who smoke are more likely to have low-birth-weight babies.
The use of snuff and chewing tobacco is also linked with a host of medical problems. Although users may be spared from lung cancer, they have a marked increased risk of cancer of the mouth and throat. Levels of various carcinogens in smokeless tobacco are much higher than levels in other tobacco products.
The cost of medical care for smoking-related disease amounts to an estimated $21 billion a year. This represents 7 percent of the total national expenditures on personal health care. An even greater economic toll is the $37 billion lost in productivity and earnings to U.S. businesses every year. It is estimated that the cost of smoking-related illness to Medicare and Medicaid is $4.2 billion a year.
It takes quite a bit of effort on the part of manufacturers to achieve the "success" outlined above. In 1983, $2.7 billion was spent on the promotion of cigarettes alone, making them the nation's most highly advertised consumer product.
Manufacturers of smokeless tobacco, for example, use every possible technique to promote these dangerous products, including giving away smokeless tobacco products at rock concerts, blatantly using sporting events and sports stars to hawk their wares, and advertising on radio and television.
Cigarette companies are precluded by law from advertising on radio and television. However, by sponsoring events that are broadcast, they are still able to use the airwaves to bring their product to the attention of the public. Examples include the Virginia Slims Tennis Tournament and the Winston 500 Car Race.
The cigarette industry has a voluntary code that is supposed to control their print advertising. This is observed primarily in the breach. Supposedly, they will not direct their advertising to those under 21, but they advertise in Rolling Stone magazine, a publication not exactly directed at the middle-aged.
Supposedly, they will not suggest in their advertising that smoking is essential to social prominence, distinction, success or sexual attraction, yet they put their smoking models in opulent, sexually suggestive settings.
Supposedly, they will not show smokers participating in or obviously having participated in vigorous physical activity, yet one spot depicts a man smoking as he towels off in a locker room, obviously just having finished a game of tennis.
All of these advertising activities are indirectly supported by the federal government and the taxpayer. Under the law, these promotional activities are deducted when calculating a corporation's taxable income.
Therefore, above and beyond what we spend to cope with the problems that stem from tobacco use, we allow the companies to deduct $2.7 billion per year from their taxable income. The taxes not paid by the cigarette companies mean more taxes -- or deficits -- for all the rest of the nation.
My proposal would remove the tax-deductable status from any promotional activities -- advertising, coupons, sweepstakes, sporting events -- for all tobacco products.
All Americans stand to benefit from this proposal. If it were to become law, it would have one of two effects:
*It could decrease or end tobacco advertising. This would reduce the use of tobacco products, help Americans stay healthier, and lower health care expenses.
*Or, if the industry continues to advertise, it will have to pay taxes on the money it spends. This will lead to increased product cost and, perhaps, decreased consumption. If the industry continues to advertise at the current rate, the government would raise more than $1 billion a year in badly needed revenue to help decrease our huge budget deficit.
Now is the time to take action. The surgeon general has released another report documenting the hazards associated with smoking. The National Institutes of Health recently held a conference on the hazards of smokeless tobacco. Cigarette warning labels have been improved, and a bill has recently passed the House and the Senate with the backing of the tobacco industry and health groups to place warning labels on smokeless tobacco and ban its advertising on radio and TV.
People who believe as I do that the government should not subsidize the promotion of these harmful products should write to their representatives in support of HR 3950 and to their senators in support of S 1950, a companion bill introduced by Sen. Bill Bradley (D-N.J.).