Tobacco Tax Measures Could Compete on Next Year’s Ballot
Two proposals to raise the state tobacco tax to fund health programs could appear on next year's ballots, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. 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.
Supporters of the measure are awaiting approval from the attorney general to begin collecting signatures for a ballot initiative. However, some patient advocacy groups criticized the proposal, saying the measure does not address certain programs.
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 for smoking prevention programs. The remaining 17% would fund other programs, such as those for emergency doctors and breast cancer research.
ED doctors and hospital officials say the Emergency Services and Tobacco Tax Act of 2006 would provide funding for urgently needed medical services. The measure could qualify for the June ballot.
Opponents of the measure -- including Health Access California, the California Medical Association, the California Nurses Association and the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids -- say it would give hospitals too much control over how the money is spent. Public hospitals also oppose the measure because funding is based on ED patient volume, rather than on the number of uninsured patients treated (Colliver, San Francisco Chronicle, 11/22).