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Oregon Tobacco Tax Bill Stalls

A proposal to raise Oregon's cigarette tax by 10 cents per pack has stalled in the state legislature, along with a number of other tobacco-related measures, the Associated Press reported.

Tobacco and restaurant industry lobbyists helped derail the measures, which also included bills to ban smoking in bars and taverns and only allow "fire-safe" cigarettes to be sold in the state.

With the current legislative session drawing to a close, the Tobacco-Free Coalition of Oregon said lawmakers are unlikely to deal with the tobacco bills this year. "I would be surprised if there wasn't an effort to put a cigarette tax on the 2006 ballot if the legislature does nothing," said John Valley of the state chapter of the American Heart Association.

The tobacco industry donated about $130,000 to state lawmakers last year, including about $15,000 to House Speaker Karen Minnis, a key opponent of legislation seeking to reinstate an earlier cigarette tax hike that was undone by voters' rejection of the legislature's 2004 tax plan. Minnis and other House Republicans also have opposed the fire-safe bill, saying that the federal government, not the state, should set such regulations -- a standard argument of the tobacco industry.

Senate Majority Leader Kate Brown, a Democrat, got $10,500 from the tobacco industry and was a key player in the decision to prevent a Senate vote on extending the state's workplace smoking ban to bars and taverns.

"My feeling is that there is some connection between campaign contributions and how lawmakers look at issues," said Valley.
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