A cautionary tale in support of I-185

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Have you ever seen someone die from emphysema or lung cancer? I have in the case of the former affliction. Emphysema came to my then-56-year-old wife Mary, who became a more avid cigarette smoker after the accidental death of our 10-year-old son Richard. It was her way of enduring the pain caused by our loss.

She was an intelligent person — friendly, helpful, a great mother, homemaker and wife; a real fireball of activity. She was the chapter chairman of the Montana Five Rivers Chapter of the American Red Cross, which was then the largest chapter in area in the United States. In spite of her protests, she was re-elected year after year to that position. She would say smoking simply relieved the stress of her life. She had no other bad habits.

She developed persistent coughing for which a doctor prescribed inhalants. A different doctor administered more tests and told her she had emphysema. Her fate was sealed. There was no cure. The disease progressed. More drugs, doctors, hospitals and oxygen for years until finally she was breathing oxygen at the maximum level. She lived less than year at maximum oxygen level, vomiting up ordinary foods, retching, fainting and gasping for just a breath of air. She died surrounded by her family who knew the mercy of her passing. She hurt no more.

Cigarette-caused emphysema destroys the tiny air sacs in the lungs that exchange oxygen for carbon dioxide. Once gone these sacs, called alveoli, do not regrow. Death is either by strangulation or heart failure.

Why am I telling this story? It is because I have witnessed over the past months so much “fake news” by the tobacco companies hired guns to obscure Initiative 185. They have twisted it from health issue to making it appear taxpayers somehow are being gouged to pay more taxes.

Before you swallow their false diversionary tactics consider this: Mary’s medical bills from the time she first realized her troubled cough to her death were somewhere around $350,000. Who pays for it? We all do. We do so either through higher insurance premiums, by ourselves or taxes to support those who become public charges.

Figures don’t lie, but liars can figure. I-185 will only be a charge on those who continue to smoke and just maybe the additional cost of tobacco products will keep some teen age Mary or Joe from starting down the path that would only lead to their agonizing death.

I urge everyone to vote yes on Initiative 185.

—Robert M. Hotter,

Great Falls

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