Blockbuster Kick-Off in California Campaign for Cigarette Tax to Fund Prevention and Research

February 02, 2012

Ready to take on Big Tobacco, California health advocates have launched a blockbuster campaign for a ballot measure to raise the state’s cigarette tax by $1 a pack and use the money to fund programs to prevent tobacco use and boost cancer research.

The effort to pass Proposition 29, a ballot initiative to be put to voters in June, brought public officials, health advocates,  cancer survivors, students — and mattresses bearing the slogan “Let’s See Who’s In Bed with Big Tobacco — to kickoff events in cities and towns all up and down the Golden State.

California has been a leader in reducing tobacco use, with pioneering campaigns that have lowered the state’s adult smoking rate to 11.9 percent.  But its current 87-cent tax on cigarettes is now far below the national average of $1.46 per pack. In recent years, the state’s groundbreaking tobacco-prevention activities have suffered.  This year California will spend $70 million on tobacco prevention programs, just 16 percent of what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends.

Hiking cigarette taxes is proven to reduce smoking and keep kids from starting. A $1 increase in California’s cigarette tax would prevent 228,000 youth from starting to smoke and prompt 118,000 adults to quit.

Despite the clear benefits in reducing disease, saving lives — and saving billions in future health-care costs — health advocates expect the tobacco industry and its allies to spend tens of millions trying to defeat the ballot measure.

“Big tobacco will say anything, do anything, spend anything to get Californians to vote no because they know it’s going to stop hundreds of thousands of kids from starting to smoke and it will cost them millions in profits,” Jim Knox of the American Cancer Society said at the kick-off event in Sacramento.