Tobacco tax and Medicaid expansion get tacit political support

February 25, 2010

It was an important victory for public health in Maryland when the General Assembly's Republican leadership chose not to propose rolling back our 2007 advances as part of their deficit reduction plan (" GOP lawmakers propose cuts to Md. budget in joint hearing," Feb. 24).

During Tuesday's unveiling of their plan, Del. Anthony J. O'Donnell, the House minority leader, said that they did not seek to repeal the dollar per pack cigarette tax increase enacted during the 2007 special legislative session when they called for repealing all of the tax increases that were enacted at the time. We are thrilled that, even though he did not support the tobacco tax increase at the time, Delegate O'Donnell must now understand that it saved many lives by reducing the number of packs of cigarettes sold in Maryland by over 73 million and has broad popular support. (Del. O'Donnell even announced that he himself stopped smoking!) We hope that he will now support the next life-saving tobacco tax increase that we propose.

It was also wonderful to hear no mention in either the House or Senate Republican budget cutting plans of rolling back Governor Martin O'Malley's 2007 health care legislation, which has brought health coverage to 55,000 Maryland parents and brought Maryland from 44th in the nation to 16th in health care for adults.It is great to see in Maryland such bipartisan consensus over these public health advances -- Congress should take heed.

Vincent DeMarco, Baltimore

The writer is president of the Maryland Citizens' Health Initiative.

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