The Baltimore Sun

Tax hikes do reduce the rate of smoking

Eileen Ambrose's column "New Md. taxes may drive some to smoke in Pa." (Sept. 23) quoted Curtis Dubay of the Tax Foundation saying, "Smoking is an addiction. Higher prices won't stop them [smokers]."

This statement should not go unchallenged, especially as there is ample evidence to the contrary.

Although I agree that smoking is an addiction, a joint study from the University of Illinois, Chicago and the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research matched price hikes with teen smoking rates and found that a 10 percent cigarette price increase would decrease the number of children who start to smoke by 3 percent to 10 percent.

And an analysis by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids has estimated that if cigarette prices were raised 10 percent across the nation, it could save 1 million teenagers from becoming regular smokers.

In Washington state, the adult smoking rate declined from 22.6 percent the year before the state's 60-cent cigarette tax increase in 2002 to 19.7 percent the following year, reducing the number of adult smokers in the state by more than 100,000.

Such conclusions on the relationship between cigarette prices and smoking rates are also supported by reports from the U.S. surgeon general, the World Bank, the National Academy of Sciences and the National Cancer Institute.

It would be interesting to know the basis of Mr. Dubay's statement.

Dr. Beryl Rosenstein


The writer is a professor of pediatrics at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

AMT filers won't pay further federal taxes

The column "New Md. taxes may drive some to smoke in Pa." (Sept. 23) claims that some high-income Maryland residents who are subject to the federal alternative minimum tax would end up paying more in federal income taxes under Gov. Martin O'Malley's tax proposals.

However, for taxpayers subject to the AMT, the size of their federal income tax bill is unaffected by changes in state income tax.

That's because (unlike other taxpayers) they aren't allowed to deduct their state income tax payments from their federal taxable income.

For other taxpayers, an increase in state taxes lowers, not raises, federal tax liability.

It should be noted that the governor's proposal raises state income taxes on only the highest-income families.

The vast majority of Maryland taxpayers will see either no change or a small cut in their state income tax under the governor's plan.

Nicholas Johnson


The writer is director of the state fiscal project for the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

State needs revenue, jobs slots generate

In The Sun's article "O'Malley betting on slots" (Sept. 26), House Speaker Michael E. Busch is quoted saying, "I am not an advocate of slot machines," and that he does not think Marylanders will willingly "pay $2 billion in new taxes while unjustly enriching racetrack owners."

Mr. Busch has been an obstructionist on this issue for years, and it is time for other House members to take control of that chamber and move it toward the state Senate's position on slots.

The fact is that if we do not allow slots, taxpayers will have to come up with an additional $500 million to $600 million in tax revenue, the state will lose the valuable racing industry and the many jobs it supports, and Maryland dollars will continue to be spent in surrounding states rather than at home.

Let's face it: Americans like to gamble. It's a growing industry in the country, and we are surrounded by states that allow it.

It is time for Mr. Busch to take his head out of his moralistic sandpile and smell the coffee.

Harry Brodie


Past time to divert dangerous trains

I was interested to learn of plans to route some trains around Baltimore ("Plan nears to reroute freights," Sept. 22). And I hope that the trains with dangerous cargo (chlorine gas, for example) will be first on the list for rerouting.

How long will it be before citizens can be assured that dangerous cargo will no longer be routed through the ancient Howard Street Tunnel?

Wasn't the fire in that tunnel in 2001 enough of a wake-up call to the city fathers (and mothers) or to our elected representatives in Annapolis?

Susan Talbott


Resort is wrong way to use public lands

The lodge and Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course at Rocky Gap State Park are perfect examples of the kind of development that should never be allowed to occur in our state parks, no matter who in high places promotes it ("State-supported resort is struggling," Sept. 21). Building such large-scale developments on public parklands threatens to destroy the only areas of natural diversity where the public can escape the rat race of urban living to indulge in outdoor recreation such as hiking, fishing, photography, canoeing or picnicking.

It is no surprise that the resort has gone deeper and deeper into debt.

A new scheme to add slots (which I imagine would be followed by a casino) is totally wrong for our public lands.

What next? Flashing neon lights?

The idea of adding more bad elements (i.e., more development to house slots) to solve the fiscal woes of the resort is totally unacceptable.

Ajax Eastman


Tyranny of majority on gay marriage

To the writer of the letter "Ruling safeguards traditional family" (Sept. 20) and to the many others who believe citizens should be able to make gay marriage illegal, I would say that the apparatus of a democracy should not be used by the majority to deny civil rights to any minority (in this case, gay couples).

Minority groups should not be deprived of their civil rights (such as the right to marry a single, consenting adult) simply because the majority does not believe that the minority is entitled to such rights - whether because of the majority's religious views or for other reasons.

Religion does not trump civil rights any more than bigotry does.

And civil rights should not be at the mercy of the "tyranny of the majority."

Kristin Kolarik


Ridiculing Wiccans isn't funny at all

I'm not sure what the point was of Ben Krull's column "Some religions and politics just don't mix" (Opinion * Commentary, Sept. 18). But I suspect it was to make fun of recent political uproars over religion by accusing politicians of something "patently absurd" - i.e., practicing witchcraft.

Well, the joke fell flat with me, as I believe it will with any other Wiccans or witches who read that column. Wicca and witchcraft are serious religions practiced by thousands of people all over the world.

Wicca, witchcraft and other pagan religions have enough trouble being taken seriously by mainstream media as it is without these religions being used as a backdrop for insipid political humor.

Karen M. Carothers


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