TOBACCO TAX: Poll Finds Strong Support Among Californians
"A Field Poll released Tuesday found strong support for each of three proposed initiatives to increase the state's tobacco tax by amounts ranging from 20 cents per pack to $1 per pack," the Sacramento Bee reports. Poll Director Mark DiCamillo said, "It doesn't seem to matter what the price of the tax is. ... the objectives seem to be favorably received by the voting public" (Bernstein, , 2/18). One initiative, sponsored by Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan (R) and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D), would levy a $1 per-pack tax to fund education reform. A second, sponsored by Hollywood actor/director Rob Reiner, seeks a 50-cent tax hike to fund health care programs for children. A third, put forth by political consultants Ann Shanahan Walsh and Paul Kinney, would establish a breast and prostate cancer fund using revenue from a 20-cent per-pack increase. So far, none of the three initiatives have qualified for placement on California's November ballot (Field Poll release, 2/18).
According to the poll, 70% "of registered voters said they would approve" the 20-cent tax to fund cancer research, while 69% said they support the Reiner-backed child development plan and 59% support the $1 tax hike to fund education reform. "Tobacco taxes are sin taxes. If you had to line up all the ways of taxation, the public is most supportive of sin taxes. If you want to tax gambling or drinking or tobacco smoking, that is generally accepted by majorities of the public," said Mark DiCamillo (Lucas, San Francisco Chronicle, 2/18). Nonsmokers, who make up 81% of the state's population, overwhelmingly support all three ideas, by margins of 80%, 77% and 70%, respectively. Support among smokers drops to 51%, 45% and 31%, respectively. Democrats favored all three measures by wide margins, but Republican support dropped to 59% for the 50-cent hike and only 51% for the $1 hike. Conducted from January 29 to February 2, the survey of 729 registered voters has a sampling error of +/-4% (Field Poll release, 2/18).
The Chronicle reports that the 20-cent tax hike proposal backed by Walsh and Kinney contains a provision saying "that if it is approved by the most voters, any other tobacco tax initiatives would not take effect." Reiner called the provision a "poison pill" (2/18).