The advertising rhetoric surrounding I-185, the Healthy Montana Initiative, has escalated with tobacco corporations spending millions of dollars to maintain tobacco use in Montana and to protect their financial profits. Their campaign ads are heavy on fear and short on truth.

First, the proposed tax is only on tobacco products. It is a well-known fact that tobacco use causes premature death, proven by the original Surgeon General’s report published in 1969. Smoking is associated with more annual deaths in Montana (1,600) than motor vehicle crashes, alcohol use, illegal drug use, homicide and suicide combined. Tobacco use costs Montanans over $400 million in health care costs and over $300 million annually in lost productivity due to related illnesses. Despite these statistics, thousands of children start a tobacco habit and many adults continue to use tobacco each year in our state.

And we are all paying for it. Every Montana household pays almost $800 per year in extra taxes due to tobacco-related diseases. There is great irony in big tobacco's argument that we are all on the hook if I-185 passes when we are already on the hook for diseases caused by them.

Secondly, in 2015, Montana Legislators passed Medicaid Expansion (HELP Act) — allowing insurance coverage for nearly 100,000 of the most vulnerable Montana populations. This program has been nothing but a success.  Passing I-185 will ensure it continues and importantly, the Initiative pays for itself. I-185 will also provide more money to veterans, nursing homes, veteran suicide prevention programs, and programs that help seniors and the disabled stay in their homes. 

Providence Montana believes that we are all invested in the health of our communities and increasing tobacco taxes while continued funding of Medicaid Expansion is good for ensuring future health of our citizens. We owe it to each other to maximize healthy behaviors and provide access to medical care.

Please join Providence Montana, AARP, American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, Montana Nursing Association, Montana Medical Association, Montana Hospital Association, and other hospitals and physicians throughout Montana in voting Yes on I-185.

Signed by:  Providence Health & Services Montana, Community Ministry Board

William Beck, MD, Polson, MT Reed Humphrey, PhD, Missoula MT

William Bekemeyer, MD, Missoula, MT Scott Long, Missoula, MT

Caryl Cox, PhD, Polson, MT Dale Mayer, RN, Missoula, MT

Joyce Dombrouski, RN, Missoula, MT Charlotte Nelson, MD, Missoula, MT

Kimberly Dudik, RN, Missoula, MT Kaia Peterson, Missoula MT

Laurie Francis, RN, Missoula, MT Peggy Schlesinger, MD, Missoula, MT

Mark Garnaas, MD, Missoula, MT Mark Williams, Missoula MT