Jun. 8 2012
WASHINGTON, DC – The outcome of a California ballot initiative (Proposition 29) to increase the state cigarette tax by $1 is still too close to call, with less than 30,000 votes separating the yes and no sides and as many as one million or more vote-by-mail and provisional ballots yet to be counted.
What is very clear is that the tobacco companies have not changed and will go to any length, say anything and spend any amount to keep America's kids smoking.
The only reason the vote on this initiative was even close is because the nation's two largest tobacco companies, Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds, funded a $47 million ad blitz to deceive California voters. The same tobacco companies that hooked millions of children with the Marlboro Man and Joe Camel are still fighting proven measures that make it harder for them to addict kids. Tobacco companies are using similarly ruthless tactics to fight measures to reduce tobacco use throughout the United States and around the world.
Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds should be held accountable for the high cost in health, lives and money that the people of California will pay if this initiative is defeated. If they succeed, 228,700 more kids will become smokers, 104,500 lives will be lost to tobacco-caused disease, and California will pay $5.1 billion more in long-term health care costs. Opponents of the initiative spent more than $200 for every child who will become a smoker if it fails to pass, a truly obscene investment to ensure future profits from cigarette sales to these children.
Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds opposed Proposition 29 because they know that increasing the cigarette tax is one of the most effective ways to reduce smoking, especially among kids. Because they know the public strongly supports higher cigarette taxes, these tobacco companies spent huge sums to change the subject and make the election about anything but the cigarette tax, which is the only issue they really cared about. Media reports regularly exposed the industry's deceptive tactics, including the creation of an industry front group with a misleading name, "Californians Against Out-of-Control Taxes and Spending," and a massive media campaign that deceived voters about how revenue from the tax would be spent and administered.
The close California vote does not change the fact that the public strongly supports increasing tobacco taxes. National and state polls across the country show overwhelming support for tobacco tax increases – support that extends across party lines, from smokers and non-smokers alike, throughout all regions. Increasing cigarette taxes remains one of the most effective ways to reduce smoking, especially among kids, and the public will continue to support it. Elected officials must side with kids over Big Tobacco and support higher tobacco taxes and other proven measures to reduce tobacco use.