Californians vote Tuesday on proposal to double cigarette tax

Meagan Clark Contributor
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Health and anti-cancer groups have placed a controversial $1 tax increase for cigarette packs on California’s Tuesday primary ballot.

The additional tax revenue would finance cancer and tobacco-related disease research.

California already has rigid anti-smoking laws, including bans on cigarette smoking in restaurants, sidewalks, public places and even apartment buildings in some areas.

About $47 million in advertisements, the majority from the tobacco industry, have encouraged a “no” vote on Tuesday, the New York Times reports.

A poll conducted by the Public Policy Institute of California indicated that in March, 67 percent of voters favored Proposition 29, but another PPIC poll taken after the advertising campaigns indicated a decrease in support. In the most recent poll, only 53 percent said they supported the proposed cigarette tax increase.

The anti-smoking campaign has attracted national attention and high-profile supporters such as New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who donated $500,000 to the effort, and bicycler and cancer survivor Lance Armstrong.

Other supporters include the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association and the American Lung Association.

Philip Morris USA, the R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company and California’s Republican Party are the leading voices in opposition of Proposition 29.

“You think of California as a healthy, progressive state leading in tobacco cessation,” Chris Lehman, an organizer behind the initiative told the Times. “It’s just not. And it’s not for lack of trying.”

The state’s legislature has voted down more than 30 attempts to raise the cigarette tax in the past 30 years and California is one of three states to not raise the tax in the past decade, according to the Times. California’s current cigarette tax is half the national average at 87 cents per pack. The last cigarette tax increase, by 50 cents per pack, was 14 years ago in 1998.

Increasing the cost of tobacco has proved to be the most effective way to discourage smoking, especially among teenagers, according to the Times.

About 12 percent of Californians currently smoke cigarettes.

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