by Sue Marten BSW, LSW, Coalition Coordinator
WI Tobacco Prevention & Control Program
Tobacco-Free Suburban Milwaukee & Ozaukee Counties
The enthusiasm and passion from a packed house of community members from Milwaukee’s North Side equaled the sweltering 100 degree heat on the streets during the first candidate forum for Wisconsin’s 10th Assembly District held at “Coffee Makes You Black” and sponsored by the Wisconsin Black Chamber of Commerce with support from the Wisconsin Tobacco Prevention and Poverty Network and the Tobacco-Free Suburban Milwaukee & Ozaukee Counties.
Three of the four Assembly District 10 candidates participated in the forum, which also included State Senator Lena Taylor (District 4) who faces a Republican challenger in the November election.
Senator Taylor stated that she was seated on the candidate panel platform “in support of candidate Millie Coby.”
Audience members submitted questions for the candidates. In the mix of many questions related to the struggles with poverty, lack of opportunities for economic development, education and job training that plague this Milwaukee community came the following: “The state spends $1.6 billion in health care costs related to tobacco us every year.
The state collects upwards of $800 million in tax revenue.
Do you think it is reasonable that at least 5% of that revenue should be used to prevent kids form starting to smoke and supporting smokers to quit?”
Candidate Ieshuh Griffin (Milwaukee – D) stated that she thought that was “what this revenue was used for in the past.”
She expressed her great concern for the vast amounts of “medical assistance monies used to treat smokers” and restated her support to fully fund a statewide tobacco prevention and control program.
Candidate State Representative Sandy Pasch (D – Whitefish Bay) remarked that she “was on the fore front in fighting for the statewide smoking ban.”
Furthermore, she explained “If we invest on the front end of prevention with funding the statewide tobacco control program, then we will see a huge payoff in saving lives and reducing health care costs related to tobacco.”
She also shared, “Let’s make it more difficult for Tobacco Companies to get to our children by bringing up the prices on these candy –flavored other tobacco products. Prevention is key. Funding our tobacco control program is key.”
Candidate Millie Coby (D- Shorewood) stated that her concern with tobacco use is “that it hits the elderly and children especially hard.” She stated, “Now that we have a statewide law for workers, what can we do to protect the elderly and children in their homes?
There is a lot of apartment housing in the central city and Shorewood where elderly live and are exposed to others that smoke.”
She concluded by saying, “When we stress prevention and educate, we do better than they (Tobacco Companies) do.”
Finally, Senator Lena Taylor weighed in tobacco control in Wisconsin. She said, “We all support youth prevention, but can we get the votes?? I went to the wall on Joint Finance for this. I showed them the pictures of these candy-flavored tobacco products and what this is doing to our kids, yet that tax increase did not happen.”
She concluded, “Do I agree with this fight? Sure and my votes reflect this.”
Round two for the Assembly District 10 candidates will commence Monday evening July 30th at 7 pm at the Shorewood Village library.