Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, the U.S. tobacco industry enjoyed tremendous success in beating back tobacco tax increases at all levels of government. But as the industry becomes ever more reviled and the economy goes further in the tank, raising cigarette taxes has become a much easier political proposition. Twelve states raised their cigarette tax in 2007 and 2008, with proposed legislation to do the same in 17 more states, as of February 2009. The federal government recently approved a tobacco tax increase of almost 62 cents per pack. When it goes into effect on April 1, it will bring the total federal tax on a pack of cigarettes to $1.00, to help fund the State Children's Health Insurance Program.
After years of bad press over no-bid contracts and massacres of Iraqi civilians, the private military contractor Blackwater Worldwide has changed its name to the cryptic "Xe" (pronounced "Zee"). In an eerily similar move, disgraced sub-prime mortgage lender Countrywide announced that its new name is the smooth-sounding "Bank of America Home Loans." Rounding out the triumvirate of chameleons, Baghdad's Abu Ghraib Prison, made infamous worldwide for the torture and abuses perpetrated inside its walls by both Saddam Hussein and the U.S. government, is changing its name to "Baghdad Central Prison."
A four-year study of more than 1,200 youngsters performed by the University of Massachusetts Medical School found that children whose parents let them watch R-rated movies are more likely to smoke. Participants were in sixth grade when they started the study, and researchers interviewed them a total of eleven times over the course of the study. They were asked questions about the availability of cigarettes in their home, whether smoking was allowed in their home and whether their parents let them watch R-rated movies and videos.
Several newspapers reported in late January on the death of Horace R. Kornegay, Jr., who served as the Executive Director of the Tobacco Institute from 1969 to 1986. Mr. Kornegay's passing was little noticed, but he was one of the more notable opponents of public health measures in American history.