Supporters Say Tobacco Tax Increase Would Benefit State
Proposition 86, a measure on the November ballot that would increase the state cigarette tax by $2.60 per pack to fund health programs, is expected to generate $2.1 billion annually -- nearly three times the amount the state receives from current tobacco taxes, the San Jose Mercury News reports (Feder Ostrov, San Jose Mercury News, 10/7).
Supporters of the measure say it would deter teenagers from smoking, decrease smoking related deaths and reduce state health care costs by $16.5 billion. The money would be used to triple the budget for anti-smoking programs, as well as emergency departments and cancer research and treatment, proponents say (Myers, Contra Costa Times, 10/8).
However, Carla Hass, a spokesperson for the No on 86 campaign, said, "It's being marketed as an anti-smoking campaign when only 10% of the money is going to smoking cessation programs." Opponents of the measure criticize a provision that would ease anti-trust restrictions to allow hospitals to join together to negotiate with on-call doctors.
Retailers and tobacconists also are concerned about the one-time "floor tax" that would be imposed on all other tobacco products if the measure passes. The amount of the floor tax, and following sales tax, has not yet been determined (San Jose Mercury News, 10/7).
Contra Costa Times: Proposition 86 "isn't the way" to "consistently fund" needed programs because the "programs are likely to become shy of funds relatively quickly" as people quit smoking and fewer people start smoking," a Contra Costa Times editorial states, adding that the health industry should "find a legitimate way to offer their services and programs." The Contra Costa Times recommends a "no" vote on the measure (Contra Costa Times, 10/8).
Los Angeles Times: The tobacco tax "is different from the standard ballot-box budgeting gambit" because "[i]t will reduce smoking in California," the Los Angeles Times writes in an editorial. According to the Times, "Decreases in smoking will extinguish the new Healthy Families dollars in about a decade, and we will be back to square one," but by that time "hundreds of thousands of children who otherwise would go uninsured will have access to health care." The Los Angeles Times recommends a "yes" vote on the initiative (Los Angeles Times, 10/9).
- San Francisco Chronicle: "Taxing small groups of people in order to pay for benefits for all of us is an unethical strategy" -- "[e]specially when we're talking about a regressive tax on a group of people who tend, in California, to be lower-income and lower-educated," a Chronicle editorial states. The Chronicle recommends a "no" vote on Proposition 86 (San Francisco Chronicle, 10/9).
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