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Taxing Smokers: Proposition 99

October 14, 1988

My husband James L. Buie died Sept. 23 from emphysema caused by smoking. I want to thank The Times for its obituary (Part I, Sept. 28) which outlined some of Jim's contributions in the field of microelectronics.

Although Jim quit smoking 10 or 11 years ago, he quit too late. There was little improvement in his lungs, which continued to deteriorate much more rapidly than the natural deterioration due to aging.

When people have talked to me offering their condolences and asked if there was anything they could do, I have replied to a smoker, "Yes, stop smoking," or to a nonsmoker, "Vote yes on Proposition 99 to increase the tax on cigarettes."

Jim officially retired in 1978 from TRW as a full-time worker, but later began working under contract as a part-time consultant for TRW/LSI Products. During those years he was awarded additional patents and designed additional integrated circuits (chips) that are still being placed in electronic devices. During the last three years he has been on an oxygen supplement, but with the aid of a small portable oxygen tank he was still able to continue his consulting. But finally, in March of this year, it became physically impossible for him to make the trip to the offices of TRW/LSI Products, although he did continue to do some work on his home computer and communicate with TRW by telephone or mail. But a few months ago he found that he was no longer able to do even that.

There was nothing else wrong with Jim except his lungs. Cigarettes probably shortened his life by 10 to 15 years--years in which he could have made additional scientific contributions.

I think a yes vote on Proposition 99, forcing smokers to prepay some of the expense they may ultimately be to the taxpayers, is good. If cigarettes are bootlegged in California, so what! My heart does not bleed for the manufacturers or retailers of cigarettes and their lost profits. And I think it will probably be too big a hassle for most cigarette smokers to seek out a cigarette bootlegger--they'll either quit, cut down, or pay the additional tax!

IONE BUIE

Panorama City

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