Helena, MT – Would you trust cigarette companies to make health decisions for your family?  Then you shouldn’t trust them on I-185.  That’s the message Montana doctors are spreading across the state from now until Election Day.  Physicians from Eureka to Hamilton, Billing to Butte, and everywhere in between are appearing on radio, in the newspaper, and on the street to urge a “Yes” on I-185.

“E-cigarettes, vaping and Juul are the latest gadgets that Big Tobacco are using to try to addict the next generation of our kids to nicotine,” said Austine Siomos, a pediatric cardiologist at Montana Children’s Medical Center in Kalispell.  “By passing I-185, we can cut smoking rates among kids by 20% and prevent 5,000 deaths from tobacco.”

I-185 places a $2 tax on a pack of cigarettes and creates a new tax on other tobacco and nicotine products.  The tax will prevent 19,000 Montanans from dying prematurely of tobacco-related disease.

But Big Tobacco is not going down without a fight.  “Big Tobacco does not like I-185.  It prevents them from addicting new customers,” said David Crites, internal medicine physician from Bozeman.  “They will say anything to confuse voters about I-185.  But, these are the same companies that have been lying to us for years – telling us cigarettes aren’t harmful, that they aren’t addictive, that they don’t cause cancer.  We won’t let them fool us this time.”

No on I-185 is funded almost entirely by Philip Morris, the largest cigarette maker in the country, which has donated $8.8 million to defeat the initiative.

“Big Tobacco has deep pockets” said Kristen Anderson, a Missoula physician double boarded in family medicine and preventive medicine.  “We can’t outspend them.  But, as advocates for our patients, we are determined to use our voice to make sure Montanans understand why voting ‘Yes’ on I-185 is so important for the health of our state.”

In addition to cutting smoking rates and saving lives, I-185 will fund essential programs, including healthcare for 100,000 working Montanans through Medicaid Expansion.

“Having access to healthcare has been a huge thing for my patients,” said Maura Davenport, Ennis family practice doctor.  “Medicaid Expansion has covered more than 100,000 preventative dental visits, 35,000 colonoscopies and 24,000 cervical cancer screenings.  These are the tests that we know prevent disease and save lives.  By voting ‘Yes’ on I-185, we can assure Montanans continue to have access to these critical services.”

In addition to providing healthcare for 100,000 Montanans, I-185 will fund suicide prevention counselling for veterans, provide additional funds for the Montana Veterans Home, and fund services to help keep seniors and the disabled independent in their homes.

“Caring for all the diseases caused by tobacco costs Montana taxpayers $440 million per year – that’s $779 for every household in the state,” said Jean Branscum, CEO of the Montana Medical Association.  It’s time Big Tobacco pays its fair share.  By voting ‘Yes’ on I-185, we can cut smoking rates and provide healthcare for working Montanans.”

Call the MMA at (406) 433-4000 or (406) 439-5960 to identify a physician in your area who can appear on your radio show, talk to your editorial board or present the facts for your community organization.  They make house calls!


Jean Branscum

CEO, Montana Medical Association

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