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State medical organizations back cigarette tax in court

OKLAHOMA CITY - It's a measure that proponents say would generate more than $250 million in additional tax dollars. It's also something health organizations stand by.

"For us, this relates to a public health issue," said Dr. Kevin Taubman with the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine. "So, in Oklahoma, tobacco-related diseases are the number one killer of citizens in our state."

On Friday, the Oklahoma State Medical Association, along with the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, the American Lung Association in Oklahoma,  and the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids filed a brief amicus in a court case brought on by cigarette companies.

"An amicus brief is essentially a translation of what we call `friend of the court,'" said Taubman.

The petitioners in the case say the passing of the cigarette tax was unconstitutional, citing things like the bill originated in the Senate and not the House, and that it was passed within the last five days of the session.

Democrats warned of a potential lawsuit.

"I don`t know what else to say other than we warned you," said Democratic Rep. Forrest Bennett.

Dr. Taubman doesn't dismiss the extra dollars the tax will bring, saying the money could help things like schools. However, he says the big picture isn't about dollar signs.

"I understand where they`re going from. From the standpoint of the tobacco fee alone, what they have to realize for us, this isn't about revenue generation. It`s the fact that if you look at it, over time, much less revenue comes out of something like this because you have much less smoking."

If the tax increase holds up in court, it will go into effect in August.