McCain, Armstrong Live Strong

COLUMBUS -- Here are bugbears that make Sen. John McCain angry: states that use money from last decade’s tobacco settlement for purposes other than cancer care and prevention. (That’s most every state in the union.)

"It's disgraceful," McCain told delegates at an annual gathering of Lance Armstrong’s Livestrong

McCain’s war against the tobacco companies – and this former POW does believe the metaphor is appropriate – stands as a self-acknowledged failure. In 1997, McCain was the moving force behind legislation to expand government powers to regulate tobacco and to levy a tax on cigarettes of more than a dollar per pack. In 1998, the legislation failed, but McCain helped to broker the industry’s $338 billion settlement with state legislators.

McCain developed an antipathy to tobacco lobbyists. He once threw lobbyist Charlie Black out of his Senate office because Black worked for Phillip Morris at that time. (Black now works for McCain as a strategist.)

McCain now opposes sin taxes on cigarettes. He said he worries that Congress would put the additional money into a general revenue pool. "Does anyone here have confidence in Congress?" he asked the crowd. Moderator Paula Zahn was skeptical. Might McCain change his mind if researchers proved that raisng the tobacco tax would help lower smoking rates?

"It would have to be proved. I don 't think it's in the constitution of this Congress.” He hastened to add, “By the way, I’m not for anybody’s taxes.” He later implied that raising the cigarette tax would lead to more smoking as a way of explaining his decision not to support a Democratic attempt to use a tax hike to pay for more children’s health insurance. McCain said he would sign legislation establishing the FDA’s authority to regulate tobacco.