tocacco plant Native American Tobaccoo flower, leaves, and buds

tocacco Tobacco is an annual or bi-annual growing 1-3 meters tall with large sticky leaves that contain nicotine. Native to the Americas, tobacco has a long history of use as a shamanic inebriant and stimulant. It is extremely popular and well-known for its addictive potential.

tocacco nicotina Nicotiana tabacum

tocacco Nicotiana rustica leaves. Nicotiana rustica leaves have a nicotine content as high as 9%, whereas Nicotiana tabacum (common tobacco) leaves contain about 1 to 3%

tocacco cigar A cigar is a tightly rolled bundle of dried and fermented tobacco which is ignited so that its smoke may be drawn into the mouth. Cigar tobacco is grown in significant quantities in Brazil, Cameroon, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Honduras, Indonesia, Mexico, Nicaragua, Sumatra, Philippines, and the Eastern United States.

tocacco Tobacco is an agricultural product processed from the fresh leaves of plants in the genus Nicotiana. It can be consumed, used as an organic pesticide, and in the form of nicotine tartrate it is used in some medicines. In consumption it may be in the form of cigarettes smoking, snuffing, chewing, dipping tobacco, or snus.

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Oregon Legislature doesn’t increase cigarette tax

Two years ago, Oregon legislators banned smoking from bars, expanded smoke-free workplace laws and passed a big tax on cigarettes to pay for health care for uninsured kids.

But this year, the state’s budget problems have stolen the spotlight and another attempt to raise taxes on cigarettes is dead.

The outcome is a sharp contrast to the beginning of the session, which saw a bevy of bills targeting cigarettes, smokeless and chewing tobacco — and smoking in general. The tobacco lobby, which spent a record $12 million to persuade Oregon voters in 2007 to kill the last cigarette tax proposal by the Legislature, scored some more victories this time around.

“The question was how many tax bills would we be able to take,” says Rep. Mitch Greenlick, D-Portland. “We were battling uphill from the beginning.”

Besides the cigarette tax, however, Rep. Carolyn Tomei, D-Milwaukie, and others said lawmakers got some small wins against tobacco this session.

“We did a lot in 2007,” says Tomei. “We passed some really good legislation, and now we’re just finishing up.”

The bills that passed include a tax increase on smokeless tobacco, a mandate that health insurers cover costs of cessation programs and a ban against tobacco vending machines from areas accessible to minors.

The cigarette tax bill proposed by Gov. Ted Kulongoski fell off the priority list for a number of reasons, according to legislators.

For one, Congress and President Barack Obama increased the federal tax on cigarettes by 60 cents this spring. With that increase, the average price of a pack of cigarettes is $5.02. Of the $5.02, $1.01 is federal tax and $1.18 is state tax.

Democrats worried about too many tax increases. Legislators feared a cigarette tax hike would end up before voters again.

Mark Nelson, a lobbyist for R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., calls the cigarette tax failure “the big victory” of the session.

Sen. Larry George, R-Sherwood, disputes the reach of the tobacco bills passed this session and says that bills such as the vending machine ban “are bills seeking headlines.”

“They don’t make a lot of public policy sense,” he says, adding that few of them were proved necessary with data. George disagrees with taxes on beer and cigarettes because he says they target working-class Oregonians.

“You don’t hear about a wine tax, do you?” he says. “That’s why these things are dying.”

Nelson says the Senate lacked the votes to pass the cigarette tax increase. Even if it did, he says, the tobacco industry would have taken the measure to the voters.

In November 2007, voters rejected the “Healthy Kids” plan, a measure to amend the state constitution that would have raised a tax on a pack of cigarettes by 84.5 cents to cover the cost of health insurance for children.

This year, Rep. Sara Gelser, D-Corvallis, says it was more a matter of circumstance — not lobbying — that killed the 60-cents-a-pack tax.

“In the end, this was not the right session for the tobacco tax,” she said. “We pursued other things. It’s not about anything the tobacco industry or the tobacco lobby did.”

Nelson and Gelser do agree on something: The cigarette tax bill is likely to return in February.

Most tobacco bills that did pass this session either limited minors’ access to tobacco or addressed the rising popularity of smokeless tobacco.

With the smoke-free workplace laws, tobacco companies have increasingly marketed smokeless products. Philip Morris USA, R.J. Reynolds and others target the young audience with candy-tasting flavors and in cell phone-shaped dispensers.

Portland is one of three test markets for smokeless tobacco because of its young, hip reputation and its free-sample-friendly laws, according to Dr. Mel Kohn, acting public health director for Oregon.

With the passage of the moist snuff bill, smokeless tobacco will be taxed by weight, with a $2.14 minimum per container. Under the law, tobacco companies must abide by youth marketing restrictions or pay an additional 40 cents a can.

Bill Phelps, a spokesman for Altria, the parent company of Phillip Morris USA, said the company testified in favor of this change.

In Oregon, statistics show that young people buy smokeless tobacco at a higher rate than adults. According to state reports from 2007, nearly 4 percent of Oregon adults used smokeless tobacco, as did more than 8 percent of Oregon 11th-graders.

Dana Kaye, executive director of the American Lung Association of Oregon, calls smokeless tobacco “the wave of the future” for the tobacco industry as indoor clean air laws are passed around the country.

Statistics show youths taking up smokeless tobacco at a higher rate than adults.

“Raising the price of cigarettes is a way to get people to quit and help prevent kids from starting,” Kohn says, deeming it the “biggest disappointment” of the session.

George says that it is a slippery slope to punish people through taxes “for bad choices” because eating fast food and skiing can be dangerous, too. A Centers for Disease Control study reports that young adults are two to three times more sensitive to price changes than other adults.

“I’ll never give up on the tax,” Kaye says. “We haven’t seen the end of their marketing, which means you haven’t seen the end of our legislative work.”
© Oregonlive

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