Voters Across America Rebuff Big Tobacco, Approve Ballot Measures To Reduce Smoking, Save Lives

Statement of William V. Corr Executive Director, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids

Nov. 8 2006

Washington, DC — Voters across America on Tuesday dealt decisive defeats to the tobacco industry and approved an unprecedented six statewide ballot initiatives to require smoke-free workplaces, increase tobacco taxes and fund tobacco prevention programs. In approving these initiatives, voters rejected multi-million dollar campaigns by the tobacco industry to deceive them and sent a loud and clear message to elected officials at all levels: Reject the special interests of the tobacco industry and protect the public interest by supporting proven measures to reduce tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke.

Voters approved ballot measures in Arizona, Nevada and Ohio to require smoke-free workplaces and public places; in Florida to require that tobacco settlement money be used to fund tobacco prevention programs; in South Dakota to increase tobacco taxes and fund tobacco prevention and other health care programs; and in Arizona, to increase tobacco taxes and fund early childhood development programs. Based on economic models, the two tobacco tax increases will prevent more than 50,000 kids from starting to smoke, save 23,700 lives and save $1.2 billion in long-term health care costs. The three new smoke-free laws will protect more than 19.8 million people from the serious health hazards of secondhand smoke. The increased funding for Florida's tobacco prevention program will have significant health benefits as well. We congratulate the many individuals and organizations that worked to pass these initiatives and especially the American Cancer Society for the leadership it has provided.

While voters approved six of the eight statewide tobacco-related initiatives on the ballot Tuesday, they unfortunately defeated measures in California and Missouri to increase cigarette taxes and fund tobacco prevention and other health care programs. Philip Morris, R.J. Reynolds and other tobacco interests spent more than $65 million to defeat the California initiative and more than $5 million to defeat the Missouri initiative. The industry's money bought a barrage of deceptive television ads that misled voters about the impact of these initiatives, going so far as to claim that the initiatives did not provide enough money for tobacco prevention when in fact they would have given California and Missouri two of the best-funded tobacco prevention programs in the country. Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds have once again put their profits ahead of lives, and they should be held accountable for the high cost in health, lives and money that the people of California and Missouri will pay. Because these measures were defeated, 766,000 more kids will become smokers in California and Missouri, 330,000 more lives will be lost to tobacco-caused disease, and these two states will pay $17.5 billion more in long-term health care costs.

Voters sent an especially clear message that they want elected leaders to protect the public's right to breathe clean air by enacting laws requiring that all workplaces and public places be smoke-free. In three states, Arizona, Nevada and Ohio, voters faced a choice between strong smoke-free initiatives and fake initiatives sponsored by the tobacco industry and other special interests. In all three states, voters approved strong smoke-free laws and rejected the fake initiatives, in many cases by overwhelming margins. R.J. Reynolds spent more than $8.5 million in Arizona and more than $5.4 million in Ohio in support of their fake initiatives (deceptively named the Arizona Non-Smoker Protection Act and Smoke Less Ohio).

Voters on Tuesday also upheld or approved local smoke-free laws across the nation, from Baytown, Texas, to Mankato, Minnesota, to Appleton, Wisconsin. In Maryland and New Hampshire, where statewide smoke-free workplace bills will be considered in the next legislative session, voters ousted incumbent state senators who have opposed smoke-free bills in favor of candidates who support them. Between the primaries and general election, three such senators were defeated in New Hampshire, where the smoke-free bill failed by one vote earlier this year, and two were defeated in Maryland.

With the addition of Arizona and Ohio, 16 states, Puerto Rico and Washington, DC have now approved smoke-free laws that include restaurants and bars. The other states are: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, Montana, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont and Washington. Nevada joins Florida and Idaho in having a strong smoke-free law that covers restaurants, but not all bars (Nevada's law exempts bars that do not serve food and casino gambling areas). Other states and communities should follow and protect everyone's right to breathe clean air.

Despite the results in California and Missouri, the fact remains that voters overwhelming support cigarette tax increases as a scientifically proven way to reduce smoking among kids and adults. In recent years, 42 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia have increased cigarette taxes. With the Arizona and South Dakota increases approved Tuesday, the average cigarette tax for the states, Puerto Rico and DC is now $1 per pack. There are now six states with cigarette tax rates of $2 or more and 22 states with cigarette taxes of $1 or more. Chicago has the nation's highest combined state and local cigarette tax at $3.66 per pack. In addition, Cuyahoga County, Ohio, voters on Tuesday approved a 30-cents per pack cigarette tax increase, producing a total state-local rate of $1.595 cents per pack in Cuyahoga County.

Voters on Tuesday approved the following statewide ballot initiatives:

Arizona Proposition 201, approved 54.2 to 45.8 percent, requires that all Arizona workplaces and public places be smoke-free, including restaurants and bars. By 57.3 to 42.7 percent, voters rejected Proposition 206, the tobacco industry's fake smoke-free initiative, which would have allowed smoking in many restaurants and other workplaces and rolled back existing smoke-free laws.

Arizona Proposition 203, approved 52.6 to 47.4 percent, increases Arizona's cigarette tax by 80 cents per pack (and also increase the tax on other tobacco products) and utilizes the revenue to fund early childhood development programs.

Florida Amendment 4, approved 60.9 to 39.1 percent, requires the Florida Legislature to set aside 15 percent of the state's annual tobacco settlement payments to fund tobacco prevention and cessation programs, restoring funding for what was once one of the nation's best tobacco prevention programs.

Nevada Question 5, approved 53.9 to 46.1 percent, requires that Nevada workplaces and public places be smoke-free, with the exception of casino gambling areas and bars that do not serve food. It also gives local governments the authority to pass tougher smoke-free laws. By 52 to 48 percent, voters rejected a much weaker initiative, Question 4.

Ohio Issue 5, approved 58.3 to 41.7 percent, requires that all Ohio workplaces and public places be smoke-free, including restaurants and bars. By 64.3 to 35.7 percent, voters rejected Issue 4, the industry's fake smoke-free initiative.

South Dakota Initiated Measure 2, approved 61 to 39 percent, increases South Dakota's cigarette tax by $1 per pack and the tax on other tobacco products from 10 percent to 35 percent of the wholesale price. This new revenue will fund tobacco prevention and cessation programs, property tax relief, education enhancement and health care.

 

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