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HOUSE SNUFFS OUT MEASURE ON U.S. TOBACCO SUBSIDIES

SHARE HOUSE SNUFFS OUT MEASURE ON U.S. TOBACCO SUBSIDIES

An amendment co-sponsored by Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Utah, to strip from tobacco farmers their federally subsidized crop insurance and extension-agent services failed by two votes Wednesday.

It died on a 212-210 vote in the House - which was closer than the 223-199 vote by which the same amendment to the annual spending bill for the Agriculture Department died last year.Hansen pushed the amendment with Rep. Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill. They are co-chairmen of the House Task Force on Tobacco and Health.

A statement by Hansen said, "The time has come to re-evaluate the government's involvement in one of the most lucrative industries in America and one that kills more than 400,000 Americans every year."

Helping to lead the attack in debate was Rep. Enid Greene, R-Utah, who said, "Of all the crops grown in this great land, only tobacco has a body count. This crop should not enjoy the same federal assistance that other crops do."

She said tobacco costs the economy much more than it helps. "Smoking costs our economy approximately $50 million in direct health-care costs a year - and another $50 billion in indirect costs such as lost productivity through sickness and premature deaths."

She added, "Given these profoundly troubling facts, how can we ask this House to appropriate another dime for the tobacco industry?"

Greene also said the $25 million the amendment would save would be used to restore cuts in funding for rural development and health programs.

But opponents said the amendment could drive out of business small, poor farmers - but would not decrease smoking or hurt large tobacco companies, which would simply turn to overseas markets for their crops.

"I don't understand what is gained by kicking a lot of small tobacco farmers in the teeth," said Rep. Bob Wise, D-W.Va. "I don't see how this stops one cigarette from being produced."

Durbin looked on the bright side even though the amendment he pushed with Hansen failed.

"Any time you get that close to defeating one of the most powerful lobbies, you feel good," said Durbin, who successfully fought for a ban on smoking in airliners.

All members of the Utah delegation voted for the amendment.