Tuesday, June 5, 2012
© Copyright 2013
Gwinnett Daily Post
LOS ANGELES -- Voters Tuesday were deciding whether to approve a California tobacco tax that has been the target of a multimillion-dollar opposition campaign.
Proposition 29, championed by cycling legend and cancer survivor Lance Armstrong, would impose a $1-per-pack tax on cigarettes and other tobacco products to raise money for cancer research, smoking-reduction programs and tobacco law enforcement.
Tobacco taxes have been proven to reduce smoking. Supporters of the initiative say the additional tax would help longtime smokers quit and prevent thousands of teenagers from taking up the habit.
Opponents say the initiative would create an unaccountable bureaucracy and hurt the economy by sending tax money raised in California to other states.
An extra tax in the nation's most populous state also could mean major losses for tobacco companies such as Altria Group Inc. and Reynolds American Inc. Tobacco companies have contributed most of the nearly $50 million raised to defeat Proposition 29.
Industry and anti-tax groups say the initiative could impose a future burden on taxpayers if the bureaucracy it creates cannot be supported as cigarette tax revenue declines. Opponents also say the measure could send research dollars out of state because it does not dictate where the money must be spent.
Supporters insist the tax revenue would stay in California and create jobs. They say tobacco companies are inventing arguments to obscure their true motive -- safeguarding profits.
The tax would generate about $735 million a year in revenue, according to the independent legislative analyst's office.
Armstrong and a coalition of anti-smoking groups raised about one-fourth as much money as the initiative's opponents. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg gave $500,000 to the campaign to help offset the industry donations.
Voter support for the initiative began falling this spring after the opposition campaign launched a series of radio and television commercials, one of which featured a Central Valley physician warning about increased bureaucracy.
California has one of the lowest tobacco tax rates in the country and is one of just three states that have not raised these taxes since 2000. Tobacco companies spent $66 million to defeat another tobacco tax measure in 2006.