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Big Tobacco Spends $45 Million to Battle California Tobacco Tax Initiative

May 31, 2012


Today is World No Tobacco Day, and the tobacco industry is doing exactly what the World Health Organization warns is a typical industry bullying tactic that must be stopped: Tobacco companies are spending more than $45 million to defeat a California ballot initiative that would raise the cigarette tax by $1 to reduce smoking, as well as fund cancer research and tobacco prevention programs.

The campaign against Prop 29, as the June 5 referendum is known, has all the hallmarks of tobacco industry interference:

  • The industry created a front group with a deceptive name, “Californians Against Out-of-Control Taxes and Spending.”

  • Tobacco giants Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds have contributed most of the $46.6 million in donations to the phony group.

  • The money has bankrolled a massive media campaign that is spreading lies about how the revenue from the tax would be spent and administered.

In an editorial headlined “Big Tobacco has no shame,” The Vallejo Times-Herald called the industry’s ad campaign “shameful, deceitful, irresponsible.” Other newspapers around the state have also called out Big Tobacco on its outright lies.

The California battle is but one example of the tobacco industry’s ruthless efforts to defeat life-saving tobacco control measures in the United States and around the world. It shows the lengths to which the industry is willing to go — and how much it is willing to spend — to protect its profits at the expense of kids and lives.

Californian should vote yes on Prop 29 for the very same reason tobacco companies are fighting it: Because it will reduce tobacco use, especially among kids.

As the Vallejo Times-Herald put it, “The hundreds of thousands of smoking-related deaths each year is an intolerable evil and must be addressed more aggressively. We have Big Tobacco executives to blame for that evil. We have only ourselves to blame if we let them get away with it.”

Read more about how to counter the industry’s lies and political tactics.