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Voter Support Declining for Tobacco Tax Hike Initiative, Poll Finds

Voter support is declining for a June ballot initiative that would raise tobacco taxes by $1 per pack, according to a poll released Wednesday by the Public Policy Institute of California, the AP/Sacramento Bee reports.

PPIC surveyed 894 likely voters from May 14 to May 20 (Lin, AP/Sacramento Bee, 5/23).

Ballot Initiative Details

Proposition 29 was written by the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association and the American Lung Association.

Supporters of the initiative say the tax increase would generate about $600 million annually to fund research on smoking-related conditions such as cancer, heart disease and stroke.

They note that it also would produce $179 million each year for tobacco cessation, prevention and enforcement initiatives (California Healthline, 4/27).

Key Polling Results

According to findings, 53% of likely voters said they support the ballot initiative, and 42% oppose it. In March, 67% of likely voters said they would support the ballot initiative (AP/Sacramento Bee, 5/23).

In addition, the latest poll found that 63% of likely voters said they generally support taxes on tobacco products.

Reason for Decline

Mark Baldassare, president and CEO of PPIC, said that a television advertisement campaign funded by tobacco companies likely contributed to the decline in support for the measure.

He said, "The large drop in support for Proposition 29 speaks loudly about how a well-funded opposition is able to raise voters' doubts and distrust in state government, even when a tax increase is viewed favorably."

The ad campaign suggests that funds raised by Prop. 29 would create a new bureaucracy and could be spent on out-of-state research (Harmon, San Jose Mercury News, 5/23).

R.J. Reynolds Tobacco, Philip Morris USA and their affiliates have now spent $38 million to defeat the measure, compared with the roughly $4.7 million that proponents have spent to support it (California Healthline, 5/9).

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