I am the grandson of the founder of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco. I know what Big Tobacco has done to our country and it pains me to see these corporations targeting Montana to protect their profits.
Through the citizens’ initiative process, the organizations supporting the Healthy Montana Initiative-185 are giving voters the opportunity to stand up to the influence of multinational tobacco corporations and choose a healthier future for our state.
Tobacco giants are striding into Montana with saddlebags full of cash, spending money on slick ads. Don’t be fooled: their number one goal is to protect profits, not Montana taxpayers. Opposition to I-185 is nearly entirely funded by the large global parent companies of Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds.
You might find it surprising that the grandson of R.J. Reynolds (that was my dad’s name, too) would join in support of I-185, but how could I not? This dark money is coming from the industry my grandfather helped start that was central to my dad’s career—and his death. As I watched my dad gasping for his last breath before he died from smoking-related lung disease, I said to myself—I don’t want to be part of an industry that kills. It killed my dad. It killed my brother. It has killed millions and millions of fathers, brothers, mothers, daughters and so many friends and families.
How could I sit idle when I found out Big Tobacco was trying to defeat a good tobacco tax that will not only save lives and health care costs by getting adults who smoke to quit, but also keep young people from ever starting (including those awful e-cigarettes they’re now being hyper-addicted to)? On top of that, it would also fund desperately needed health care coverage for 100,000 Montanans. In addition, I-185 would also set aside increased funding from the current tobacco tax to bolster veterans’ health services such as suicide prevention.
Unlike the partisan politics dividing this country, this isn’t a Republican or Democrat issue. Two-thirds of Montanans support raising the tobacco tax to prevent a loss of Medicaid to thousands of Montana families and veterans.
Big Tobacco has a well-financed playbook that they use to stop tobacco taxes across the country to protect their profits. I’ve seen it repeatedly, but tobacco taxes are increasing in many states and the benefits are overwhelming.
Without increasing tobacco taxes, state taxpayers are always left holding the bag for tobacco’s rising health care tab. Did you know that tobacco use costs Montanans $440 million a year in health care costs? Every Montana household now pays nearly $779 extra in taxes annually to help cover the cost of smoking. In addition, smoking costs Montana businesses $368.9 million annually in lost productivity.
If those numbers aren’t enough, these should be: 1,600 deaths. 19,000 kids destined for premature death. This is what tobacco does to Montanans in one year. In the final analysis, I-185 will save Montana taxpayers $385 million in health care costs.
I-185 is supported by numerous local chambers of commerce as well as the American Heart Association, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, Tobacco-Free Kids Action Fund, Montana Hospital Association, family doctors and school nurses throughout the state. Even though the Big Tobacco funded ads are ramping up across Montana, don’t give up! Like many Montanans, I’ve lost too many family members to tobacco-related diseases. Vote Yes on I-185 to save lives and improve health
Patrick Reynolds is the grandson of the founder of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco and executive director of Foundation for a Smokefree America .