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January 30th, 2009
01:58 PM ET

The “No-Smoking” Stimulus Act

Sen. Tom Harkin's office says smoking causes $110 billion in health costs each year.

Sen. Tom Harkin's office says smoking causes $110 billion in health costs each year.

Drew Griffin
CNN Special Investigations Unit

Just about every line of the huge stimulus bill contains millions intended for what democrats are calling job creation and what republicans are calling waste: arguments based on differing political philosophies? Perhaps.

But who could argue that millions spent to stop smoking is going to create jobs.

Well, apparently Iowa Senator Tom Harkin. He is asking for 75-million dollars for just that to be added to the stimulus bill.

Why? That’s exactly what I asked him.

Here’s the conversation:

Sen. Tom Harkin/D-Iowa:

“This is the American recovery and re-investment act so its not, it is stimulus, we do want to put people to work right away, but we also want to lay a solid foundation for strong economic growth in the future."

Drew:

"Senator it just seems like this is not the bill. we are trying to get the economy moving we are trying to get people back to work, and I am having a hard time understanding how 75 million to tell people to stop smoking is going to put anybody back to work."

Senator Harkin:

“Well first of all I will tell you we have put over five billion dollars in this bill on prevention.

So that we can get ahead of the curve and cutting healthcare costs."

Drew:

“Senator, I have got to be skeptical because what I think I am hearing is ‘yes we want to get people off of smoking, but here you go Joe, you’re out of work, but by golly at least your not smoking?’”

Senator Harkin:

"Well that’s why we are doing two things in this bill, we are putting people back to work with infrastructure projects, news schools and stuff like that, but we are also investing, investing in a sound recovery in the future."

Drew:

“At the end of this you are going to get your $75 million, how many people are you going to stop from smoking?”

Senator Harkin:

“Well, I don’t know, the money goes to the secretary of health and human services and that will go out to various programs that are effective, that are proven effective in the past. I can’t give you a number right now but for every, for every, I don’t know the exact number, but for every ten dollars or so we spend on smoking cessation programs, we can see the effect of people getting off of smoking."

I think we will all be able to understand this if we just extend the name of this stimulus bill.

Call it the “American Recovery and Re-investment (and no smoking) Act”.


Filed under: Bailout Turmoil • Drew Griffin • Health Care
soundoff (18 Responses)
  1. Lucy n ga

    $75 million to help smokers stop. $100 million to farmers to grow it.

    January 30, 2009 at 7:50 pm |
  2. jim Fallbrook CA

    I am a non smoker. How about just making nicotine a illegal drug. The government will save $75 million on the stimulus package. Smokers will either have to quit or go to jail. Wait a minute. There may be a problem. The state and Federal government will lose the excessively high taxes impose on tobacco products. It is bad enough smokers are being taxed to death. People who smoke are well aware of the health risks of tobacco. Let them smoke in order for the State and Federal Government to rake in the enormous taxes generated by smokers.

    January 30, 2009 at 7:05 pm |
  3. Pat Canada

    How many deaths are caused by over eating, alcoholism, drunk driving, gambling? All these addictions cause serious health problems and deaths. If not by the addictive substance by the stress and anxiety endured daily by addicts. Maybe Government should inject millions in programs for all addictions! Ridiculous? I agree. Just as ridiculous as wasting millions in programs for smokers!

    There is more hype created on Smoking than rape, murder, child incest, child abuse, abuse of women, the homeless or any of the other ills of society. People smoked since the early 40's and earlier what are those statistics compared to today? I know many people who smoked from the age of 20 thru 80 and died of natural causes. Personally I think it's an easy target used by the Powers that Be to look good. A Smoke Screen, if you will, for the real killers amongst us still at large!

    January 30, 2009 at 6:57 pm |
  4. Sharon, LA, CA

    Pitiful waste of money!

    January 30, 2009 at 6:45 pm |
  5. Annie Kate

    Just how many other non-applicable items are in this bill? Sure sounds like business as usual. I don't think Congress got the message. Job creation and no smoking are not related and if someone has spent the money for years to sustain their smoking habit then they can pay the dollars required to break their habit. The 75 million can go to true job creation.

    January 30, 2009 at 6:35 pm |
  6. Cori

    Getting people to quit smoking shouldn't have to cost taxpayer millions of dollars, heck, not one dollar. Let's deal with more serious issues, like the housing market crisis, millions without jobs, healthcare, the war...but smoking, c'mon. It's not even worthy of being considered as a bill. There are ways people can stop smoking without it costing millions of dollars. Besides, if a person wants to start smoking, they will, and we can't stop them. No one can force a person to stop smoking either. We need to realize it's human will, and they will decide to quit on their own, or not start at all. Let's not waste more money.

    January 30, 2009 at 6:33 pm |
  7. amanda house

    if i could find a job maybe i could afford to smoke why not just give us the money and we can spend 40 on the patch and still have cash left for groceries. i dont know what world these people are thinking if they are thinking at all. the stimulus has some good points but what about those who dont get unemployment anymore and dont qualify for social welfare help we have no health care and no job and looks like unless i want to trade in my degree for a shovel and do road work i guess i am out of luck as usual. we need to stand up to these morons and really vote change all the way down to local mayors i am tried of politicians

    January 30, 2009 at 6:19 pm |
  8. Linda in Oregon

    Isn't it about time legislation is directed at helping americans live better lives? Bravo for the foresight of the drafters of this bill to include elements that re-invest in our people – the back-bone of our economy!

    We will also need to address the drug problem – especially, if we are to succeed in the middle east. So believe this bill stopped way short of what has been neglected for way toooo long.

    January 30, 2009 at 5:38 pm |
  9. Sandy

    Of all the smokers I know I don't think a one of them would quit if you gave them the whole $75 million. They might pretend to but they are addicted and like it that way ort like other drug addicts they could ,and would, get off the nicotine. It is not easy but not much that is worthwhile is! The stimulus package is not a place for this provission.

    January 30, 2009 at 5:07 pm |
  10. Isabel, RJ, Brazil

    The only behind cigarette harm to human health, the government spends more on health because of him, and even scientists spend their neurons rich create cigarettes without nicotine, or something like 'VitaCig', which does not stain teeth, has less smell and is enriched with Vitamin C. With so many diseases without cure. This is ridiculous!

    The consumption of tobacco generates a loss on several factors: more burden of the health system in treatment of diseases caused by smoking, early deaths of people in productive age, higher rate of early retirement, increased time off work, less income at work, more spending on insurance and important reduction in the quality of life for smokers and their families.

    January 30, 2009 at 4:53 pm |
  11. Lisa VIC Australia

    No-smoking stimulus act is a concern: as a non-smoker I fully support its intent, to stop stinking up the world (or the part that I attend); the bus stops, tram stops and parks. But what will the tabacco farmers and production workers do? Creating more jobs by cutting an industry and making more unemployed. Cost benefit analysis required.
    Also the medical related costs of smoking are high, but they keep nurses, doctors and hospital staff employed also.

    January 30, 2009 at 3:58 pm |
  12. Tammy

    Fantastic – another non-traceable sinkhole we can throw money into. $75 million with no goals? No numbers? He doesn't even know how the money will be distributed! Yet, $75 million is the figure he presents. *shakes head* This has got to stop, people.

    January 30, 2009 at 3:31 pm |
  13. Mike, Syracuse NY

    Pathetic. The Dems haven't a clue. The economy tanks and they want to spend tens of millions on condoms and anti-smoking ads. Figure out the math. $819 billion for 3 million jobs. That works out to $275,000 per job. Since we all know that the average cost of a new job is a lot less than that, the conclusion is that most of the money doesn't create new jobs.

    January 30, 2009 at 3:23 pm |
  14. Bob Blackwell, Santa Barbara CA

    Looks like a mad grab for money !!!
    $75 million for "No-Smoking"?
    $21 million for sod?
    Honestly, do the folks in DC think we're stupid?
    I can assure you, if you gave the above $76million to my friend Tammi in Tampa, she'd go on a shopping spree at Neiman Marcus and Nordies that would stimulate the economy with far greater effect than sod and stopping people from buying cigarettes.

    Oh... and what about real issues like education, infrastructure and healthcare?

    January 30, 2009 at 3:22 pm |
  15. Jim,California

    If The Dear Senator would give me $25,000 so I could pay my bills & Debts & Stop giving my tax money to Banks Who give themselves 20 Billion in Bonuses,People who are in this Country ILLEGALLY, & Take a pay cut so He has to survive on what I have for the last year which is ZERO-Then I'll stop smoking.

    January 30, 2009 at 3:21 pm |
  16. Christina

    This is waste of money. Let them kill themselves if they want!

    January 30, 2009 at 3:14 pm |
  17. Michael "C" Lorton, Virginia

    There is more smoke being blown by Congress that all of the smokers in America--–just give it an impressive name and attach it to the bill-–the question is, we know what Americans are smoking--–but what is Congress smoking?

    January 30, 2009 at 3:03 pm |
  18. Cindy

    In my opinion I think the no smoking thing needs to be tossed from the bill. It does nothing to create jobs. Yes it is an important thing to get people to stop smoking but right now in this stimulus package we need things that will actually make jobs to get our economy back on track. I say that they should shelve this idea until later and add it somewhere else.

    Cindy..Ga.

    January 30, 2009 at 2:16 pm |