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Prescription Cigarettes?

In a state seen as soft on crime because of our near-miss vote to make marijuana legal, a measure put forth in the House by Rep. Mitch Greenlick, swings the other way entirely. HB 2077 (full text here), if passed into law, would make nicotine a Schedule III prescription product, the same classification as Vicodin and other addictive substances.

A first offense for possession of nicotine or a nicotine containing product without a prescription would get a misdemeanor charge, an offense that comes with up to $6,000 in fines and up to a year in prison. That sounds a bit excessive for tobacco, but it appears that we’ve reduced smoking addiction as much as we can by public service announcement and smoke free ordinances.

No one thinks the measure will actually pass – it has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee and will likely die there. But the statement is a powerful one and brings attention to the addictive nature of tobacco and the harm its use does to society. Nicotine is ranked, on some scales, as harder to quit than even heroin. And no one denies the chronic health effects of smoking are clearly established.

One interesting twist is that, while the push by health care and legislators is to reduce smoking, our state still makes more than a dollar for each pack sold in tax money. In an era where every penny in taxes counts, it’s hard to imagine our state letting that money go away.

According to, Oregon smokers spend an average of $1,825 on smokes a year. And while the percentage of smokers in our state is less than the national average, that’s still a huge amount of money when all is said and done.

It might be ironic, but there certainly is some reason to move marijuana into the legal column and simultaneously move tobacco out of it. Cannabis is at least a treatment for some diseases, while tobacco merely causes them.


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