Just as government shouldn't prop up tobacco farmers, lawmaker says smokers shouldn't get Medicaid

10/14/2013 11:55 AM

With the tobacco industry on a decline, tobacco farmer and state Rep. Jonathan Shell, R-Lancaster, said the free market will determine when he switches to grow something else.

“We’re not there yet. But it’s getting close. We’re having a hard time finding good, adequate labor at a good price we can actually afford,” Shell said. “And with these restrictions … keeping tobacco being sold as cigarettes, we’re going to see a lot more pressure on tobacco farmers to make that decision whether or not to go with corn, whether or not to go with soy beans.”

Shell, in his first term as a state representative, also said he opposes legislation that is expected to again come up in the 2014 General Assembly to require Kentucky restaurants, bars and other workplaces to go smoke-free. But he says he’s not against it because of what it might do to hasten the decline in demand for tobacco.

Shell said it’s a matter of the government getting too involved in people’s decisions.

“As I don’t think we have should have a smoking ban, I also think if you’re going to be smoking you should have to sign a waiver that you will not get on to Medicaid or Medicare and so that the taxpayers have to end up forking over those dollars because you made the wrong decision to put those carcinogens in their body,” said Shell, who sponsored legislation this year to require drug testing for anyone who applies for government benefits such as Medicaid or food stamps.

That part of the discussion begins at 4:00 of the video.

Kentucky’s tobacco industry took a hit last week when the European Parliament voted to ban some flavorings and additives in cigarettes.

The Washington Bureau for McClatchy Newspapers — the parent company of the Lexington Herald-Leader — recently highlighted Shell as part of its coverage of the effects of the industry.

Shell told Pure Politics the European Parliament’s decision wasn’t as bad as he initially feared. Here’s why:


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