Anti-smoking groups not fond of Walker’s smoker tax

(WRN) Groups against smoking are not sold on a proposed smoking penalty. Anti-smoking groups say a surcharge on health insurance is not necessarily the best way to get folks hooked on cigarettes to quit. Dona Wininsky with the American Lung Association says it’s not an “evidence-based approach” to get smokers to stop. Under Governor Scott Walker’s budget plan, state employees would be required to sign affidavits promising that they don’t smoke, or else they’d have to pay a 50-dollar-a-month surcharge on their health plans. Wininsky wants to help smokers, not punish them. Certainly higher tobacco taxes takes money from consumers’ pockets, but she wants to encourage smokers to kick their habit while not hindering their ability to get health care coverage. Wininsky says smokers need access to smoking cessation programs that are proven to work, especially low-income people who generally smoke at higher rates than those making more money. Department of Administration spokesperson Stephanie Marquis says the plan could affect about 10 percent of state workers and would save taxpayers $2.7 million over the next two years. Nonsmokers in at least nine other states get a break on their health insurance premiums. Marquis points out, this is merely a proposal. No details have yet been determined.