Supporters Confident About Chances of Proposed Cigarette Tax
Despite expected pushback from the tobacco industry, supporters of a proposed ballot initiative that would impose a $2-per-pack cigarette tax increase in California are confident they will garner enough support from voters, the Inside Bay Area News reports.
In 2012, voters rejected a $1-per-pack tax hike. Supporters lost the vote by four-tenths of a percentage point. During that effort, tobacco companies outspent supporters of the ballot initiative by nearly 4-to-1 (Richman, Inside Bay Area News, 11/30).
In October, cigarette tax proponents sent new ballot initiative language to the state Attorney General's office.
The newly proposed tax has been projected to raise $1.5 billion in the first year (Gorn, California Healthline, 10/8). According to the San Francisco Business Times' "Bay Area BizTalk," the ballot measure would allocate 82% of its generated revenue to state health programs (McDermid, "Bay Area BizTalk," Sacramento Business Journal, 12/1).
Once the ballot title and language become official -- which can take up to two months -- the six-month-long signature-gathering effort will begin. Supporters must collect more than 365,000 signatures from registered voters to qualify the measure for the ballot (California Healthline, 10/8).
California Attorney General Kamala Harris (D) is expected to issue the proposal's official title and summary by Dec. 15 (Inside Bay Area News, 11/30).
Chances of Success
According to "Bay Area BizTalk," the proposed ballot measure has a better chance of succeeding in 2016, with recent polls showing that voters support the initiative by a 2-to-1 margin ("Bay Area BizTalk," Sacramento Business Journal, 12/1).
Meanwhile, the initiative already has raised about $4 million from supporters, including:
- The Service Employees International Union, which has donated $3 million; and
- Tom Steyer, an environmentalist, who has donated $1 million.
Laphonza Butler, California president of SEIU, said, "There's no reason that we should not try to reduce smoking rates and add revenue to long-term health costs -- and do that by taxing one of the most expensive health habits that contribute to those costs" (Inside Bay Area News, 11/30).
However, opponents of the measure say it could place a burden on taxpayers ("Bay Area BizTalk," Sacramento Business Journal, 12/1).
David Sutton -- a spokesperson at Altria, which is the parent company of Philip Morris USA and spent $27.5 million to help defeat the 2012 ballot measure -- said, "We are opposed to large, excessive cigarette tax increases like this one proposed in California." He added, "We are reviewing the ballot initiative and considering our options" (Inside Bay Area News, 11/30).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.