On Tuesday, anti-smoking advocates announced a new campaign to establish a $2-a-pack tax on cigarettes in California. Organizers were uncertain whether the proposal would take the form of legislation in Sacramento or a statewide ballot measure, or both.
The mobilization effort begins Thursday morning with a rally on the Capitol steps, according to Mike Roth, director of Roth Public Affairs, which is promoting the effort.
“We know there are legislators who were big supporters of SB 768 (last year’s bill authored by Sen. Kevin De León that was placed on the Senate Committee on Appropriations suspense file) and in coming weeks we’ll be working with legislative champions to determine the best course.”
A hike in California’s cigarette tax — currently at 87 cents a pack, about half the national average for cigarette taxes — has been floated seven times in the Legislature and was narrowly defeated at the ballot box in 2006 and 2012. California’s last addition to the cigarette tax was in 1988, when California voters passed Prop. 99.
This time, Roth said, the outcome will be different.
“We have momentum this time,” Roth said. “We have so many people on our side, and they’re so committed. We understand it’s going to take a sustained effort to fight big tobacco. That’s why we’re starting now.”
The tobacco industry has established a strong political foothold in Sacramento, according to a recent report from UC-San Francisco researchers.
Tobacco-related diseases cost the state about $3 billion a year, according to Roth.
Advocates estimate the $2-per-pack tax could generate $1.5 billion a year which, could jump to $3 billion with federal matching funds.
Thursday’s event on the Capitol steps coincides with the Great American Smoke-Out.