California Tobacco Tax Proposition Defeated

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In what is being called a “razor-thin” margin, with absentee votes still being counted, California’s Proposition 29 has lost – 50.5% No, 49.5% Yes. The June 5th ballot anti-smoking proposal would have added an additional dollar a pack in state taxes on cigarettes.

Measure would have raised money for cancer research

Supporters of the measure decry the loss; the measure would have funded ongoing anti-smoking programs and raised money for additional cancer research. Those on the other side see the results as backing a conservative, lower taxes and less government agenda. Because the proposal was part of a Republican primary election, some feel the vote favored the more conservative side of California politics.

This means that current taxes (87 cents a pack) will remain the funding source for multiple tobacco-related programs in the state. Of the estimated $780 million the measure was predicted to raise, about a quarter was targeted for tobacco prevention and treatment programs, including funds for enforcement of tobacco laws in the state.

All about money?

Besides the funding issue on the ballot itself, the measure had vocal supporters and detractors. And the “nays” had the bigger wallet. Phillip Morris, the tobacco company, was the highest donor on the anti side. Their spend amounted to more than everything raised on the pro side of the issue. At $27 million, Phillip Morris easily outspent the highest donor for their opponents – The American Cancer Society ($8 million).

Increasing prices has a known effect on tobacco use, with higher prices leading to a reduction in smoking. The Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids published a study showing predicting these results, had the measure passed:

  • • A 13.7% decrease in youth smoking;
  • • 228,700 fewer California kids from becoming addicted adult smokers;
  • • 118,300 adult smokers in California who would quit;
  • • Avoiding 22,300 Smoking-affected births over next five years;
  • • Save 104,500 California residents from premature smoking-caused death;
  • • $37.9 million in 5-year health savings from fewer smoking-affected pregnancies & births;
  • • $43 million in 5-year health savings from fewer smoking-caused heart attacks & strokes;
  • • $5.1 billion in long-term health savings in the state from adult & youth smoking declines.

At this writing, the supporters are still hopeful that absentee ballots will move the measure their way and they haven’t given up.

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