KUSA – The 9NEWS debate on whether Coloradans should raise cigarette taxes through a state constitutional amendment wasn’t actually a debate.
That’s because No Blank Checks in the Constitution, the campaign opposing Amendment 72, decided not to participate.
“I think I scared them off,” Dr. David Goff said. “I’m pretty scary guy, and I know what I’m talking about when it comes to heart health and smoking. So it’s pretty clear they got word I was going to be here.”
Amendment 72 would nearly triple the tax on cigarettes and raise the tax on other tobacco products.
The money, which is projected to be about $315 million annually, would go for medical research, tobacco-use prevention, doctors and clinics in rural or low income areas and veterans’ services.
The no campaign has raised about $5 million to keep the amendment from passing. But all that money comes from a single source, Altria Client Services LLC, the parent company for tobacco giant Philip Morris.
“Amendment 72 inserts a blank check for $315 million dollars into our Colorado State Constitution for spending programs that haven’t even been determined yet, and less than 20 percent of the new revenue is dedicated to helping people stop smoking,” no campaign spokeswoman Michelle Balch Lyng told 9NEWS in September. “We should not allow special interests to misuse our constitution and our tax dollars the way this constitutional amendment does."
Goff says Phillip Morris doesn’t care about Colorado’s constitution.
“They care about selling cigarettes,” he said, which is a problem for Phillip Morris because raising the price of cigarettes in the past has decreased the number of teenagers who smoke.
Goff believes an amendment was necessary because that makes it impossible “for the legislature to divert this money in future years into other programs under the influence of tobacco industry lobbyists.”