Gov. Kate Brown recently had the opportunity to make good on a promise. After years of dysfunction and thinly veiled special-interest influence at the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, she committed to appoint a "diverse, science-oriented" slate of candidates to fill a large percentage of open ODFW commission appointments.
Brown is routinely lauded as the conservationist's choice, and a politician who speaks for the people whose voices are rarely heard, and yet, in this moment, she nominated three candidates with long histories of advocating for decisions that adversely affect the wildlife and habitat they would supposedly be in place to protect and enhance.
A retired commercial fisherman, a former Department of Forestry official who has routinely advocated for draining of wetlands to expand ranching opportunities, and a rancher whose father serves as the treasurer of the Oregon Cattlemen's Association and who personally has a penchant for slaughtering "big game" like hippos, zebras and crocodiles for fun; all of whom are unabashedly being promoted by Brown's office to make key decisions on how to manage your wildlife.
Not one of these three individuals can be trusted to drive policy that is informed by science and the public interest. These are Trump administration types of moves, and with these decisions Brown also demonstrates her lack of interest in creating the type of environment at ODFW where effective policy decisions can be made and progressive change can happen.
A huge promise broken, to all of us and to all future generations of Oregonians.
Don't add to the cost of your cigars
I wish to address some serious issues with the legislation's current plan to raise taxes on premium cigars in an effort to curb cigar consumption and fund Oregon's Health Plan.
I can't stress enough that premium cigars are not cigarettes. Yes, both contain tobacco. However, both do not contain the same tobacco plant contents.
This is important because the premium cigar is made from 100% organic plant material with no additives and preservatives. Cigarettes are made from a nonorganic plant and contain lots of additives and preservatives.
To break it down in simple terms, stating that premium cigars and cigarettes are the same in terms of usage, product ingredients and risk factors is the same as stating a bottle of water and a bottle of Coke are exactly the same.
A bigger issue is that if the 50-cent premium cigar cap is removed, it will simply drive cigar sales out of state into Washington or online sales. No change to product consumption will occur.
If there are significantly fewer sales in Oregon due to higher costs, this will have a negative impact on not only the Oregon Health Plan, but also those programs that are funded by these tax revenues, like the Tobacco Education Program.
With fewer funds for programs that work, Oregonians, especially kids, will be limited in the education that is vitally needed.
Don't make the mistake that premium cigars are equal to cigarettes in any way, they are not. By subjecting them to the same taxing strategies, you impact more than Oregon's current shortfall of revenue without impacting consumption. You impact kids that will be more exposed to tobacco without the education of the risks.
I encourage you to write your legislator to express your concern on short-funding Oregon's tobacco programs.
Oregon Cigar Association
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