Health Access through Tobacco Tax is Focus of Colorado Law Conference

July 20, 2004

Although tobacco addiction is the leading cause of preventable death in Colorado, the state's cigarette tax is ranked lowest in the nation and some critics say the rate encourages tobacco use. The cigarette tax and other tobacco-related health topics will be explored during a monthlong series of conferences and presentations offered by the University of Colorado at Boulder School of Law and the university's Center for Bioethics and Humanities. Called "Health Access Through Tobacco Taxes," the series of events will kick off on Sept. 24 at 2 p.m. with a five-and-a-half hour conference at the CU-Boulder Fleming Law Building. Participants will explore scholarly issues raised by Amendment 35, the Colorado Tobacco Tax Initiative recently added to the Nov. 2 ballot. The pros and cons of the tax will be presented in a mock trial demonstration and also will be discussed in remarks by Colorado Deputy Attorney General Jan Zavislan in a 6 p.m. keynote address. The conference is free and open to the public and is titled "The Shivers Colloquium on Law and Medicine: Health Access Through Taxes - An Interdisciplinary Examination of Issues Presented by the 2004 Colorado Tobacco Initiative." If passed, the tax would generate about $175 million a year and be used to pay for health and smoking-cessation programs. "Could increasing Colorado's cigarette tax a few cents per pack allow Colorado's uninsured citizens to get access to the health care they need?" asked Dayna Matthew, director of the Center for Bioethics and Humanities and a CU law professor. "There are approximately 700,000 Coloradoans who are uninsured and lack access to basic health care." A number of prominent physicians, legal scholars, public officials and practitioners will attend the Sept. 24 conference to discuss the medical, ethical and legal issues raised by the ballot initiative. Zavislan will talk about the legal, ethical and economic issues Colorado faced in its litigation and role in the Master Settlement Agreement. Beginning Oct. 6, CU physicians will present weekly discussions at University and Children's hospitals on the health effects of tobacco. The talks will run through Oct. 27. The conference series was made possible through donations from the Shivers Memorial Fund for Law and Medicine and the Levitt Professorship in Family Medicine. The Center for Bioethics and Humanities is affiliated with the professional schools of dentistry, medicine, nursing and pharmacy at the University of Colorado's Health Sciences Center. The purpose of the center is to promote ethical, just and humane health care by encouraging students and practitioners to address ethical issues and to adopt high professional standards. The center staff is comprised of three philosophers, a law professor, a program assistant and 21 associate faculty members from the various professional schools and the community. For more information, contact Dayna Bowen Matthew at (303) 735-5717, by e-mail at dayna.matthew@colorado.edu or visit the CU-Boulder School of Law web site at http://www.colorado.edu/law/ and click on the calendar link to located the event. Contact: Dayna Matthew, (303) 735-5717 dayna.matthew@colorado.edu Dirk Martin, (303) 492-3140 dirk.martin@colorado.edu