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Editorial -- Vote `Yes' on All Four Ballot Questions

Massachusetts voters face four ballot questions Tuesday. One of them, Question 2, has become moot after a late agreement between the advocates and opponents of the measure. A "yes" vote serves as an added endorsement of the compromise on the measure to force corporations to make certain tax records public each year.

Here are The Tech's recommendations on the other three questions:

Question 1: This proposal would establish a Health Protection Fund to pay for health programs relating to tobacco use, to be financed by a new excise tax on cigarettes and smokeless tobacco. We feel that the benefits of further education about the dangers of tobacco use far outweigh the disproportionate cost to low-income individuals, especially when taking into account the high social cost of medical treatment for low-income smokers. We urge a "yes" vote on Question 1.

Question 3: This extremely controversial proposal aims to reduce wasteful packaging through a number of new requirements. Packagers have a choice of reducing overall packaging, using reusable material, using previously recycled materials, or using recyclable materials. The argument in favor is obvious: reducing waste is in the interest of everyone in the long run. What is necessary is to rebut the arguments against this particular proposal.

Despite the claims of the advertising blitz sponsored by the packaging industry, the "bureaucracy" this law will set up to oversee recycling will not cause business to stagnate in Massachusetts. Similar fears drove the campaign against the 1982 Bottle Bill, and passage of that question did not create the dearth of products on the shelves opponents had predicted. The Bay State is too valuable a market for companies to simply abandon because of a new law.

The allowances for reasonable exemptions -- in the case of safety packaging or FDA requirements, for example -- are generous and eliminate most of the worries that business will be driven out of the state. We encourage you to read the Recycling Act for yourself. It is an important step toward Massachusetts taking the lead in environmental protection nationwide, and we urge you to vote "yes" on Question 3.

Question 4: This proposal would contribute to the state Environmental Challenge Fund by taxing people, businesses, and other organizations possessing 50,000 pounds or more of various petroleum products and toxic chemicals. Money in the fund can be appropriated by the legislature to assess and clean up sites that have been or may be contaminated by oil or hazardous materials. We believe that companies must be held responsible for the proper use and disposal of these materials, but remain concerned about the legislature's proper appropriation of the money collected. Subject to this concern, we support a "yes" vote on Question 4.