Yes on Proposition 29

Don’t be fooled by Big Tobacco’s propaganda

As of April 21, supporters of Proposition 29, the Tobacco Tax for Cancer Research measure on the June 5 statewide ballot, had raised $4.6 million in campaign funds. Opponents, mostly big cigarette manufacturers like Altria/Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds, had generated $23.8 million.

The only conclusion to be reached is that Big Tobacco is spending all that money because it’s worried the measure will do exactly what it seeks to do: reduce the number of smokers. Prop. 29, which would add a dollar to the per-pack tobacco tax, bringing it to $1.87, would encourage many adults to quit smoking and discourage many young people from taking it up in the first place. Stanton A. Glantz, a professor of medicine at UC San Francisco, estimates that the tax hike “will help so many people quit smoking that they’ll spend a billion dollars less a year on cigarettes.”

The revenues raised, estimated at $735 million a year at first, would be used to fund cancer research, smoking reduction programs and tobacco law enforcement. Although the revenues will decline over time, as the smoking rate declines, the funding inevitably will result in better treatments for cancer patients and other positive outcomes.

California has had great success since 1988 with Proposition 99, which placed a 25-cent-per-pack tax on cigarettes to support tobacco-education and smoking-prevention efforts. The state’s comprehensive approach has changed social norms around tobacco use and secondhand smoke and produced dramatic results. It is estimated that the measure has saved more than 1 million lives and resulted in $86 billion worth of savings in health-care costs.

Big Tobacco is going to spend whatever it takes to defeat Proposition 29. Voters should remember what this is really about: powerful, rich corporations trying to addict people to a deadly product.