Groups Call for Collaborative Ballot Initiative To Increase Tobacco Tax
California Medical Association CEO Jack Lewin and other groups say disease and children's advocacy organizations and the hospital industry should negotiate a new ballot initiative to increase the tobacco tax for health care funding, rather than introduce competing measures, the Sacramento Bee reports (Benson, Sacramento Bee, 11/24).
Two proposals to raise the state tobacco tax to fund health programs could appear on next year's ballots. Both proposals would increase the cigarette tax by $1.50 per pack to generate $1.4 billion annually.
The Tobacco Tax, Disease Prevention and Children's Health Insurance Act of 2006 -- which is supported by several disease and children's advocacy organizations, including the American Cancer Society and the American Lung Association -- would allocate 35%, or $450 million, of the funds to disease prevention and treatment programs for breast cancer, strokes, lung disease and other illnesses. The proposal also would provide about $435 million for health care coverage for uninsured children and about $270 million for anti-smoking programs (California Healthline, 11/23). The measure could appear on the November 2006 ballot (Sacramento Bee, 11/24).
A separate measure, supported by the hospital industry, would use almost 65%, or $906 million, of the money to fund hospital emergency departments. About 9%, or $126 million, would be allotted to nursing education, with the same amount allotted to smoking prevention programs. The remaining 17% would fund other programs, such as those for emergency doctors and breast cancer research.
The measure could qualify for the June 2006 ballot (California Healthline, 11/23).
Lewin said competing measures would make it easier for opponents of the measures, including tobacco companies, to fight both (Rau, Los Angeles Times, 11/28).
Philip Morris USA spokesperson Bill Phelps said the company has not taken an official position on the proposed measures but generally opposes "excessive tax rates" (Sacramento Bee, 11/24).
Paul Knepprath, a vice president for the lung association, said health advocates tried to negotiate a joint initiative, but "we weren't able to get to an agreement" with hospitals.
Kristine Deutschman, a spokesperson for the ED measure, said failed negotiations were a matter of "differences in priorities" (Los Angeles Times, 11/28).