The Baltimore Sun

Tobacco tax hike cuts costs, saves lives

The governor and our legislators should support the proposed $1-a-pack increase in the state tobacco tax as a way to expand health care coverage and reduce the rate of death and disease associated with cigarette smoking ("Cutting the deficit with smoke," Sept. 8).

Maryland's current tax rate on cigarettes is $1 per pack. But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that each pack of cigarettes sold in the United States costs the country more than $7 in medical care and lost productivity.

The American Lung Association estimates the economic costs of smoking in Maryland to be more than $3 billion a year.

And the potential benefits of raising the cigarette tax are enormous.

Studies show that higher taxes make cigarettes more expensive, which deters kids from starting to smoke and motivates adults to quit.

Imagine the benefit that represents to employers in productivity increases, to the state in health care savings and to the families who will be spared the loss of a loved one from the ravages of tobacco, which is the leading cause of preventable death and disease in this nation.

With nearly 7,000 Marylanders dying each year from smoking-related causes, it is time to explore real options to reduce smoking rates.

An increase in cigarette taxes would help save lives - and that's the bottom line we should really focus on.

Claire R. Mullins

Hunt Valley

The writer is a vice president of the American Lung Association of Maryland.

Purchasing 'pink' makes a difference

In "'Pink' products make her see red" (Sept. 11), Susan Reimer disparagingly compares the coming National Breast Cancer Awareness Month to the pre-Christmas shopping season.

But I am a breast cancer survivor who is very proud to be "pink." And I think all the funds raised for research and health care are important.

It doesn't matter if they came from the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure or from the sale of great chick flicks, pink microwaves or pink paperclips.

Jan Purnell


Cancer marketers exploit public fear

My deep thanks to Susan Reimer for having the courage to say how sick many people are of the breast cancer-themed "pink" products ("'Pink' products make her see red," Sept. 11).

I have had enough of it all for years. But any mention of not particularly appreciating all this pink junk meets with raised eyebrows and insinuations that you somehow wish the worst for women with breast cancer.

My daughter wrote an article for her school paper about the oversaturation of pink products, and the paper refused to run it on the grounds that the article was insensitive.

Well, I think it's insensitive to exploit people's fears and suggest that this is the only form of cancer that deserves note.

Lisbeth Pettengill


Taxing professionals hurts entrepreneurs

As a small business owner, I require the services of an accountant to help me file and pay all the taxes associated with a small business (sales tax, property tax, income tax, self-employment tax, etc.) ("Tax the professionals employed by the wealthy," letters, Sept. 12).

I also use the services of an attorney to help me keep abreast of the ever-changing business regulations and also as a protection against the "get-rich-quick, sue-the-pants-off-of-you" types out there.

Far from being wealthy, my take-home income dropped by 60 percent when I left corporate America, partially because of the taxes and expenses I noted above and partially because of the obscene cost of health insurance.

Taxing the professionals who serve the small business community would just put an additional strain on those professionals and the small businesses that use them.

Joe Greenbeck


The writer is the owner of a shipping and handling store.

Focus on fallout from war at home

The Bush administration is narrowly focused on what might happen in Iraq if the United States were to withdraw quickly ("Petraeus gives cover to Bush," Sept. 12).

Because of the tremendous daily waste of our human and material resources, the focus should be on what happens to the United States if we do not withdraw from Iraq quickly.

Howard Caplan


Reassert rule of law in wake of tragedies

Leonard Pitts Jr.'s poignant recital of our lost opportunities following the attacks of 9/11 prompts one to ponder how we might salvage the resolve that was squandered by the incompetence of our leaders ("Six years on, so much is forgotten," Opinion

Commentary, Sept. 9).

It seems more and more clear that our imperative today is to redress our legitimate grievances against this administration through the constitutional process of impeachment.

We must do this not in anger or retribution (which are divisive) but because we must re-establish the rule of law and the supremacy of our Constitution to start again with hope.

Monday is Constitution Day.

I hope each one of us will take the time to read the Constitution and look for the tools given us by our Founders to keep our democracy healthy and to demonstrate to ourselves and to the world that ours is truly a government of the people, by the people and for the people.

Ann Burdette

Ellicott City

Prayer can provide impetus for change

It was a breath of fresh air to read "Vigil meant to save a city" (Sept. 4).

The Sisters Saving the City have realized that active prayer brings healing.

I agree that the issues mentioned in the letter "Prayer can't heal all that ails city" (Sept. 7) also need to be addressed by each community. But I also know from my own experience that prayer lays the groundwork for doing this most effectively.

Rather than being a do-nothing approach - just sitting there and hoping things will work out - prayer is actually the first step in meeting every need. The second step is following through by enacting the course of action prayer reveals to us.

Prayer invokes the power of God by recognizing that there is a power higher than our own - and reminds us that we are not alone in struggling to make things happen.

Kathryn Johnson


Is belief hard-wired into human brains?

According to The Sun's amazing article "Brain study shows a sharp political divide" (Sept. 10), "Exploring the neurobiology of politics, scientists have found that liberals tolerate ambiguity and conflict better than conservatives because of how their brains work."

Apparently, the different styles of political thinking are actually hard-wired into our brains.

I would be fascinated to learn if such findings can also help explain religious beliefs - perhaps we may find that fundamentalism has more of a biological basis than a learned one.

Nancy Spies


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