St. Charles Health System on Tuesday endorsed two ballot measures it says “are in alignment with our vision of “creating America’s healthiest community, together.'”
In an email to subscribers, President and CEO Joe Sluka said the organization supported the City of Bend’s $190 million transportation bond measure and Measure 108, which would fund health programs through a cigarette tax increase and a new tax on nicotine vaping devices.
He said the transportation bond is important to protect Bend’s quality of life and economy as the community continues to grow.
“Passing the measure would help create safer street crossings and build a new network of sidewalks, bike lanes and bus pull-outs,” Sluka wrote. “These improvements would make it safer for our kids to get to school, for pedestrians and cyclists to get around and make navigating town easier for drivers.”
The bond would fund dozens of major road infrastructure projects across town, including adding traffic signals, building additional roundabouts and a railroad overpass on 15th and Reed Market Road.
Sluka said the health system supports Measure 108 because higher costs on tobacco products likely would lead to fewer people using them.
“As it stands now, Oregon doesn’t tax nicotine vapes one penny and has some of the lowest tobacco taxes in the country,” Sluka wrote. “We find this concerning since youth vaping in our state has increased 80 percent in the past two years alone. Tobacco companies are targeting kids with candy-flavored vapes that taste like gummy bears or cotton candy and are selling them for as little as 99 cents. According to the Journal of American Medicine, young people who vape are nearly three times more likely to start smoking cigarettes.
According to the Oregon Voters’ Pamphlet, 90% of the funds raised from the tax would support the Oregon Health Plan and other medical assistance programs; 10% would fund tobacco cessation and prevention programs.
An official endorsement from the hospital is rare, but officials said this year was different because these two measures have an impact on the health and well-being of the community.