California Voters Approve $2 Tobacco Tax Increase in Big Win for Kids and Health

Statement of Bill Lee, Executive Vice President, U.S. Programs, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
November 09, 2016

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – California voters on Tuesday delivered a resounding victory for kids and health over the tobacco industry by approving a $2-per-pack tobacco tax increase, the single largest tobacco tax hike ever approved by any state. This overwhelming vote sends a powerful message to policy makers across the country that voters strongly support raising tobacco taxes, especially when they receive accurate information about the many benefits and the tobacco industry’s lies are exposed.

The Prop 56 campaign achieved this 63-37 percent victory despite being outspent more than 2-to-1 by tobacco companies, led by Altria/Philip Morris and Reynolds American/R.J. Reynolds, which poured an unprecedented $71 million into fighting the measure. But health advocates and other supporters of Prop 56 mounted a robust campaign to counter the industry’s deceptive ads. We congratulate all involved in the Yes on 56 campaign for this tremendous victory.

The evidence is clear that significant tobacco tax increases are one of the most effective ways to reduce smoking, especially among kids. Prop 56 also restores robust funding for California’s pioneering programs to prevent kids from smoking and help smokers quit, which have had funding steadily eroded in recent years.

These actions, along with a state law approved earlier this year to raise the tobacco sale age to 21, once again put California at the forefront of the fight to reduce tobacco use, the nation’s No. 1 cause of preventable death. California already has some of the lowest high school and adult smoking rates in the country (at 7.7 percent and 12.9 percent, respectively). With these actions, California is setting the pace in creating the first tobacco-free generation and ending the death and disease caused by tobacco.

It is disappointing that ballot initiatives to raise tobacco taxes fell short in Colorado and North Dakota, where tobacco companies spent over $17 million and $3.8 million, respectively, against these measures and vastly outspent initiative supporters. As in California, the tobacco companies spent these huge sums to deceive voters and showed how far they will go to preserve the pipeline of kids they need to survive.

The California result is a powerful reminder that it is possible to beat the tobacco companies and pass measures that protect kids and save lives. Other states should follow California’s example.