Republican Joe Hune has given himself a pretty narrow job description, and his proposal to encourage smoking and then cut health care is the latest example of it.
As he said in the Livingston Press and Argus, "'I wasn't elected to protect what's in government coffers. I was elected to protect what's in the pocketbook of my constituents and the people I serve.'"
What about protecting children from harm? Isn't that part of the job description of a state senator in Michigan? Not for Hune.
Hune wants to cut the state's $2 a pack cigarette tax in half, which will drastically increase smoking, especially among young people. The tobacco industry's own documents show that cigarette use among young people is highly sensitive to price.
Researchers who examined those internal documents concluded: "These documents clearly support the findings from academic and other research that demonstrate that price is a key determinant of overall cigarette smoking, that price increases lead to significant reductions in overall smoking, increases in smoking cessation, and reductions in smoking prevalence, with relatively large effects on young people." In other words, the lower the price, the more young people smoke or start smoking. The higher the price, the fewer who start.
So Hune's proposal to cut taxes and lower prices will lead to more smoking, especially among young people who might otherwise never start because of the cost.
And once they are smokers and begin to experience the health problems associated with smoking? Hune will make it harder for them to get health care by cutting eligibility for Medicaid.
Hune's response is that if smoking is so bad, it should be banned -- a totally unworkable proposal and he knows it. If Hune is worried about cigarette smuggling now, how much worse would it get with a ban on cigarettes?
Hune says he is protecting the pocketbooks of "my constituents and the people I serve." Joe Camel may not be a constituent, but that's who Hune is serving.