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Letters to the Editor

Light It Up

Jesse [Mayshark]: Kudos and thanks for your sage assessment [Nov. 8] of the implications of the Nov. 6 City Council election. As 1st District Councilman-elect, Joe Hultquist, has urged, you are helping to raise the bar in Knoxville politics and politicking.

Thank you especially for courageously shining the light of public scrutiny on smarmy operatives. Their historically tawdry strategy has been to perpetuate ignorance and a sense of futility about Knoxville politics among the electorate—so that their "benefactors" may stay in control at any cost.

It's high time that they and all that support their sordid agenda are brought out of the shadows into the light.

Joel Coates

A Tax That Pays

Joe Sullivan's column about the state's fiscal condition (Facing up to the State's Harsh Realities, Nov. 15) mentions the appeal of sin taxes as an alternate source of revenue for the state and the potential $50 million revenue generated by a 10-cent increase in the tobacco tax.

A proposal already circulating around Capitol Hill calls for the 2002 General Assembly to increase the state's tobacco tax by 30 cents, which would increase tobacco tax revenue by an estimated $174 million.

Tennessee's tobacco tax of 13 cents per pack is the sixth-lowest in the country and has not been raised since 1969. Every other state in the country, except Tennessee and Virginia, has raised tobacco taxes since the 1960s, some several times. By raising the tobacco tax 30 cents, Tennessee's tobacco tax would match the national average of 43 cents per pack.

When the 13-cent tobacco tax was passed 32 years ago, the tax was about 25 percent of the cost of a pack of cigarettes. Today, the tobacco tax is only around 5 percent of the cost of a pack of cigarettes. It is an increase the state badly needs.

Raising the tobacco tax will not completely solve the state's financial crisis, but $174 million dollars in extra revenue is nothing to sneeze at either. Not only will the increased tobacco tax help the state's fiscal health, but it will also help the state's physical health of its citizens. More than 9,000 Tennesseans die each year from tobacco-related person of every hour of every day. More than $1 billion is spent on tobacco-related health care problems annually.

By increasing the tobacco tax, 20,000 people will stop smoking and 21,000 children will never start the habit to begin with. The long-term health care savings, along with less strain on the TennCare system, are astounding.

A total of 14 states have increased their tobacco tax since 1997, with new tobacco tax rates ranging from 52 cents a pack to a national high of $1.42 passed earlier this month in Washington. Each state has seen a dramatic decline in the smoking rate and large increases in revenues. It is time for Tennessee to do the same to protect the health and well-being of all of its citizens, and to improve the state's financial health as well.

David Smith
Executive Director
Campaign for a Healthy and Responsible Tennessee

Scoop on 'Dog

Thanks to Mike Gibson for the Whammy Bam/Guitar Heroes article [Nov. 15 Gamut].

Really covered all the bases I'm familiar with, except an item about the mighty Don "Maddog" Rutherford. He did not work with Wino of the Obsessed; that was the awesome Greg Rogers—former drummer of the Teen Idols with the incomparable John Sewell.

Maddog currently works in the movies doing makeup with effects impresario, Rick Baker. You can see his work in the recent Planet of the Apes flick.

A lot of us would like to see examples of his recent gig: making up some of the staff for Hugh Hefner's Halloween Party at the Playboy Mansion. Dig.

Jay Nations