How Big Tabacco is saving you money, gambling in Montana's museums 

Talk about your bounced Czechs: Reuters news agency reported last week that tobacco giant Philip Morris commissioned a report that found that the premature deaths of Czech smokers have resulted in an unexpected windfall profit for the Czech government—in the form of money saved in healthcare costs, pensions and housing for the elderly. The report, prepared by the consulting firm Arthur D. Little International and released in the Czech Republic several weeks ago, shows that in 1999 the Czech government “saved” between 943 million and 1.19 billion crowns ($24 million to $30.3 million). According to a statement issued by Philip Morris, which sells eight out of every 10 butts puffed in the Czech Republic, the report was prepared as part of a national debate over cigarette excise taxes, and was not intended to create the impression that “premature deaths represent a benefit to society.” Certainly, it couldn’t represent much of a benefit to Philip Morris either, which now has to go out and spend billions recruiting new pensioners to prematurely surrender their senior housing… In a related story, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled July 17 that Native American tribes are not entitled to a share of the $200 billion tobacco settlement between 46 states and cigarette makers. The court ruled that the tribes had failed to demonstrate sufficient injury to warrant challenging the historic 1998 agreement by seeking their own $1 billion in tobacco payments. This despite strong evidence that tobacco companies targeted Native Americans, who, by the way, have among the highest incidences of smoking and smoking-related ailments in the country.

Sculpture in the front, poker in the rear? So, do you have any strong opinions about roulette and keno machines at the Art Museum of Missoula? What about blackjack and baccarat tables at Historic Fort Missoula? A proposal is currently before the Montana Heritage Commission to allow gambling in the Bale of Hay Saloon, a historical museum in Virginia City. Historic Virginia City and Nevada City are both the property of the State of Montana and are administered by the Montana Heritage Commission, which is seeking public comment on a gambling proposal for the 2002 museum season, presumably, to increase cash flow to the museum and surrounding businesses. One suggestion that’s been put forward would permit only “vintage” gambling in the museum, thus eliminating the presence of noisy gaming machines with their flashing lights, ringing bells and hypnotic melodies. Instead, the museum would be required to offer an accurate representation of Virginia City’s historic days of gaming, presumably with the occasional steely-eyed cowboy accusing a feller of cheatin,’ followed by the sudden cessation in piano playing, the obligatory upending of the poker table, drawing of guns and resulting lead poisoning to the belly. A public open house will be held in Virginia City on Monday July 30 from 5-7 p.m., or comments can be mailed to: Montana Heritage Commission, P.O. Box 201204, Helena, MT 59620-1204. The deadline for comments is Aug. 15, 2001. Feel free to ante up with your thoughts and/or suggestions.
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