Tobacco Companies Spend Nearly $100 Million to Mislead Voters and Oppose State Ballot Initiatives to Raise Tobacco Taxes

Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
November 02, 2016

WASHINGTON, D.C. – With less than a week until Election Day, the big tobacco companies have already spent over $92 million in just three states – California, Colorado and North Dakota – to oppose ballot initiatives to raise tobacco taxes. What better proof that the industry hasn’t changed and can’t be taken seriously when they say they don’t want kids to smoke? The companies are fighting these initiatives for one simple reason: They know that a significant increase in the tobacco tax is one of the most effective ways to reduce smoking, especially among kids.

The huge sums they are spending against these initiatives represent an investment to preserve the pipeline of kids the industry needs to survive.

  • In California, tobacco companies, led by Altria/Philip Morris and Reynolds American/R.J. Reynolds, have now spent more than $71 million to defeat an initiative (Prop 56) to raise the tobacco tax by $2 per pack – with no reason to think they’ll stop there in waging their disinformation campaign.
  • In Colorado, Altria/Philip Morris alone has spent over $17 million to defeat a ballot measure to raise the tobacco tax by $1.75 per pack.
  • In North Dakota, Altria/Philip Morris and Reynolds American/R.J. Reynolds have poured an unheard of $3.8 million to fight the proposed $1.76 tobacco tax increase.

Of course, the tobacco companies hide the real reason for their opposition behind front groups and deceptive arguments. In California, the companies are trying to mislead voters into thinking the Prop 56 opposition comprises a broad “Coalition of Taxpayers, Educators, Healthcare Professionals, Law Enforcement, Labor, and Small Businesses,” as the group has dubbed its campaign. But, no, it’s the top three tobacco companies, especially Altria and Reynolds, almost entirely funding the effort.

The industry’s ad claims about California’s Prop 56 have been thoroughly debunked by PolitiFact California (here and here), The Sacramento Bee and the State Superintendent of Public Instruction. The Los Angeles Times called the industry’s ads 'cynical, disingenuous' and 'baloney,' while an editorial by The San Jose Mercury News stated, 'Nobody blows smoke in the face of voters better than the tobacco industry.'

The tobacco companies are once again determined to protect their profits at the expense of kids and lives. Voters everywhere should reject the industry’s lies and support these initiatives to protect children and save lives.

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For more information on the California, Colorado and North Dakota initiatives, please visit:

CA: yeson56.org
CO: healthyco2016.com
ND: raiseitforhealthnd.com