Coloradans should vote yes on Amendment 72

At this point in election season, it can be extremely tempting to give up and check out of the political scene. More and more people are getting fed up with the current state of the presidential race, whether out of fear, anger, or embarrassment—especially when it comes to the two major candidates representing our country. Yet given the inescapable nature of political propaganda in the media and on campus, I think redirecting our focus to issues on the Colorado state ballot is a better option than distancing ourselves from politics altogether.

There are many pivotal amendment propositions on this year’s ballot, including proposals to increase the state’s minimum wage, establish a statewide health care system, provide access to the Aid-In-Dying drug, and raise state taxes on tobacco products. While each of these propositions are extremely important and deserve to be addressed, I am choosing to advocate for Amendment 72 in this column.

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According to the 2016 State Ballot Information Booklet, if passed this November, Amendment 72 would “increase the state tax on a pack of cigarettes from $0.84 to $2.59, increase the state tax on other tobacco products from 40 percent to 62 percent of the price, and distribute the new tax money for medical research, tobacco-use prevention, doctors and clinics in rural or low-income areas, veterans’ services, and other health-related programs.”

To me, a non-smoker who has seen the health effects of nicotine dependency on others, this proposal seems like a no-brainer—especially in Colorado. Last year, the United Health Foundation named Colorado the eighth healthiest state in the nation, as well as the least obese. Our state also ranks first in terms of physical activity and has the second-lowest number of residents with diabetes. In the past, the state has established policies that ban smoking in public areas and restrict cigarette advertising in an effort to promote public health, and I think increasing the cigarette tax should be the next step. Since the majority of Coloradans already lead healthy lifestyles that do not involve smoking, I think the passing of Amendment 72 would further promote the ideal of healthy living and give those in the minority all the more reason to follow suit.

Medical institutions like the Children’s Hospital of Colorado have recently voiced their support for Amendment 72, claiming that “every year, more than 5,000 Coloradans—most of whom started smoking as teenagers—die from tobacco-related illnesses. Increasing the tobacco tax is a proven way to fight this deadly problem and stop kids from starting to smoke in the first place.”

And it makes sense; most smokers begin as young, rebellious adolescents who likely do not have adequate jobs to support a smoking habit—especially if it means spending upwards of ten dollars several times per week on cigarettes. When coupled with the task of persuading someone of age to purchase cigarettes for them, the increase in state tax on tobacco products makes smoking a difficult habit for teenagers to maintain. The Children’s Hospital of Colorado also predicts that if it is passed, Amendment 72 will result in a 19.6 percent decrease in underage smoking and roughly 35,000 adolescents will be kept from smoking in adulthood.

In terms of the tax revenue being reallocated to fund medical research and local health centers in low-income areas, Amendment 72 seems to propose one of the most pragmatic and straightforward solutions for minimizing cigarette use in Colorado. Not only will the extra $1.75 per pack deter non-smokers from picking up the habit and lead others to quit, but it will also directly benefit long-time smokers with serious health conditions by revamping their medical centers. In other words, Amendment 72 has the potential to positively impact nearly every demographic in Colorado with regard to preventing tobacco use—and to that, we should all vote yes.

Collegian Opinion Columnist Laurel Thompson can be reached at letters@collegian.com or on Twitter @laurelanne1996.