Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Sen. Hunter Proposes Referendum on Smoking Ban

Senator Tupac Hunter, D-Detroit, introduced SB 496 which would put the issue of smokefree workplaces on the 2010 statewide ballot. This legislation is virtually identical to Senator Ray Basham's, D-Taylor, bill SB 114 and applies to restaurants, bars, and casinos.

In a press release, Senator Hunter stated, "For the past 10 years, the Legislature has tried and failed to pass a smokefree worksite bill that would protect our citizens from smoking-related diseases. Instead of continuing to argue about exemptions and concessions, we need to go to the voters and let them decide what is best for Michigan.”

The fact that a Detroit Senator wants to see the issue on a ballot is an interesting twist considering the Detroit Reps' strong aversion to smoke free air legislation. The House Regulatory Reform Committee's Chair, Bert Johnson, D-Detroit, is opposed to smoke free legislation as are most of the Detroit area Representatives.

There is a fear that business will decrease significantly if a smoking ban goes into effect. People will flee from the state, people will abandon casinos, bars, and their love of going out to eat. This fear is unfounded and based on lies.

A study conducted by the New York City Department of Finance showed that "tax receipts increased by 8.7 percent, or approximately $1.4 million, after the city went smokefree." In addition, the first nine months following the smoke free law's inception there were 10,600 new jobs in its bars and restaurants. Florida saw similar results, and reported that retail receipts for taverns and bars that served food remain unaffected by its smokefree law. In fact over 300 studies conducted by peer research journals have shown similar results. When smoke free dining laws go into effect, business goes up.

A recent poll revealed that two-thirds of Michigan voters support a workplace ban that includes bars and restaurants. If this bill passes we may just have our say. Whether this bill will even see the floor however, has yet to be seen.

Playing With Public Health

Yesterday, a handful of state legislators stood outside in the rain under a 25 foot inflated rubber duck to announce a bill that would protect Michigan's children from harmful chemicals and toxins in their environment. The legislators are concerned about toxic chemicals like arsenic, lead, and bromine.

Are they talking about the 4,000 chemical componds found in cigarettes? Will they be tackling the issue of secondhand smoke which contains 11 different human carcinogens?

No, they're dealing with toys. Now, don't get us wrong, we don't like toxic toys anymore than the next guy. We don't think hazardous chemicals belong in our childrens' toys anymore than we think they should be in their air. However, given the fact that a little over two weeks ago we were told that the most important thing on the Reps' agendas was the budget, we're a little miffed as to why these politicians could take the time to stage a publicity stunt.

Now at the start of the politicians' spring break, Ashtray Andy Dillon said that only important issues, like the budget, were to be tackled. In the last blog entry, we accused Dillon of playing games with public health. We didn't know he'd take us so seriously as to actually drag out some toys.

Let the Speaker know that it's time to put away childish things and start dealing with a public health concern that truly impacts all of Michigan's children, whether they're 1 or 100 - second hand smoke. If he's got the time for "fun" press conferences and giant rubber ducks, surely he has time to hear from you.

Office Address Room 166, Capitol Building
Mailing Address P.O. Box 30014 Lansing, MI 48909-7514
Phone: (517) 373-0857

Fax: (517) 373-5976
Toll-Free (888) 737-3455

Email or
(the second link will take you to an email form)

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

CALL TO ACTION: Quit Playing Games With Our Hearts

An article in the Detroit Free Press talked about the rampant partisan politics and “excess gamesmanship” in Lansing. The author defined gamesmanship as “promoting the appearance of achieving policy objectives in such a way as to ensure no change will be accomplished, or with an indifference to actually accomplishing change.” He then went on to describe the Michigan politicos’ favorite gamesmanship target: the smoke free workplaces bill.

The author observed, “The end of the current Legislature may very well find us in the same position as the end of the last Legislature: preservation of the status quo. This would amount to a triumph of gamesmanship over democratic majorities.”

Despite Michiganders’ overwhelming support of a comprehensive bill, the legislators just can’t seem to get their act together enough to give the constituents what they want. Last year, the Senate passed a clean bill, and the House passed a bill riddled with exemptions. The two groups pointed fingers at each other and Michigan residents paid the price for their silly games. This year, the politicos’ “go to” move is to blame the economy.

So how do you beat cheaters at their own game? Call their bluff. Public health is not a game. Michigan residents cannot stand idly by while Ashtray Andy and Marlboro Mike drag their feet and wait for our fearless leaders to learn how to walk and chew gum at the same time.
If they want to talk about the economy, then let’s look at the dollars and cents facts. Just about every peer reviewed economic impact study shows no negative impact on business. To the contrary, most states report a marked uptick in restaurant revenue due in large part to more people going out. These reviews have been conducted in good times and bad, in poverty and in wealth.

As for the price Michigan pays as a smoke-friendly state, the numbers are astronomical. In 2007, Michigan spent $3.4 billion on health care costs directly related to smoking. Our state Medicaid program covers $1.1 billion of that amount. That means that each Michigan resident has to shell out roughly $306 to cover smoking related health care costs. In tough economic times like these, imagine what you could do with $306:

You could buy a week’s worth of groceries for a family of four,

Or 153 gallons of gas:
Or a car payment:

Or, for those of you looking for a splurge, a Nintendo Wii:

What would you do with $306? Call Andy Dillon or Mike Bishop and let them know that in these hard times, Michigan can't afford to ignore its health.
Dillon can be reached at (888) 737-3455 or
Bishop can be reached at (877) 924-7467 or

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Call to Action - Ashtray Andy and Marlboro Mike put Michigan's health behind $$$

On April 8, House Speaker Andy Dillon, D-Redford Township, and Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, R-Rochester, announced that the smoke free workplaces law will be shelved until summer in order to work on a budget.

That’s right, all 148 people will be working on the budget at the same time. Picture it, all of the legislators checking each other’s math, punching in numbers on a calculator, and really getting down to work, full time, for eight hours a day until June. This truly is government efficiency at its finest.

While Dillon, Bishop, and the rest of the politicos push beads around on a communal abacus in an attempt to deal with the budget, the future of Michigan residents’ health is beginning to look even more dim.

These decisions came at the close of three weeks worth of testimony in the House Regulatory Reform Committee on the various smoke free bills, as well as three state-funded field trips to various casinos and cigar bars. These field trips were taken in the interests of “taking in all of the information” so that committee members could make a balanced decision on the welfare of the state. I’ll remind you that the committee is chaired by Rep. Bert Johnson, D-Detroit, who has previously voted against a comprehensive smoke free bill.

Michigan residents want this bill to pass. A poll of Michigan voters conducted by EPIC-MRA showed that two-thirds support a smoking ban in all places, including Detroit’s casinos.

As for the State’s dire economic circumstances that have been the excuse for not dealing with this pressing public health matter, take a look at some of these 2007 statistics:
  • Michigan spent $3.4 billion on health care costs directly related to smoking
  • Michigan lost $3.95 billion in productivity due to smoking.
  • Each Michigan family paid $306 for smoking related health care

But, to their credit, not ALL of the Michigan legislators are pleased with Bishop and Dillon’s latest stall tactic. Sen. Ray Basham, D-Taylor, a champion for smoke free workplaces has rebuked the leadership for their inability to deal with more than one issue at a time.

“I'm OK with multi-tasking," Basham told the Detroit News. "When 3,000 people are dying in Michigan every year from secondhand smoke and smoking-related diseases are costing us billions a year for health care, we should find time to deal with this."

The leaders’ excuse that “now isn’t a good time” isn’t valid. Based on the mere fact that the bill has been rolling around the Michigan Legislature for the past 11 years, it seems that NO time is a good time for the state’s public health. People are getting restless, and talk of an expensive ballot proposal is building.

The lawmakers have said that a ballot initiative is the last thing they want to see, but I don’t buy it and neither should you. After all, why should the lawmakers make the so-called “tough” decisions when they can pawn off their jobs on the people? It’s become shockingly clear that Dillon and Bishop don’t have the guts to stand up for public health. They would rather engage in petty arguments, take expensive field trips, point fingers, and push papers than address their constituents needs. Let them know they’re wrong.

Call and write Andy Dillon and Mike Bishop and ask them to do the right thing and support what the majority of Michiganders want; now, not this summer.
Dillon can be reached at (888) 737-3455 or
Bishop can be reached at (877) 924-7467 or

Friday, April 3, 2009

Urge your Senators to support FDA regulation of tobacco

As many of you are aware the House passed the FDA legislation which would allow the FDA to regulate tobacco. It now moves on to the Senate. Please consider sending a note to our Senate legislators using this link. It provides a letter you can edit.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009