Prop 29: Tobacco tax appears to be failing

Proposition 29 would increase the tax on tobacco products by $1.
Proposition 29 would increase the tax on tobacco products by $1.
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Listen to story

Download this story 0.0MB

A proposal to increase the tax on tobacco products to fund cancer research and anti-smoking efforts appeared to be failing today, though the vote was still too close to call.

Proposition 29 was opposed by 50.8 percent of voters, according to uncertified results from the Secretary of State’s office – a difference of just 63,176 votes.

California’s Secretary of State won’t declare Prop 29’s fate until all the votes are counted and, in a press release, Debra Bowen says that that could take a while. Many vote-by-mail ballots don’t arrive at registrars’ offices until Election Day — and more Californians than ever mail-in their votes.

Overseas ballots and provisional ballots also get counted post-election.

With Proposition 29, the tax on cigarettes would increase from 87 cents to $1.87 per pack. The California Legislative Analyst’s Office expected the tax to generate $735 million a year in new revenues. That money would go into the California Cancer Research Life Sciences Innovation Trust Fund, where:

  • 60 percent would go toward prevention, diagnosis, treatment and potential cures for cancer;
  • 20 percent would be used for tobacco prevention and cessation programs;
  • 15 percent would be used to lease buildings and provide capital for research on cancer and tobacco-related diseases
  • 3 percent would go to state agencies to reduce cigarette smuggling and the sale of tobacco to minors;
  • and
  • 2 percent would go to administrative costs.
  • Proposition 29 was opposed by tobacco companies Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds and by the California Republican Party, among others, with groups spending $46.8 million to defeat the measure.

    The American Cancer Society and Lance Armstrong Foundation donated money in support of Prop 29, though they were outspent by more than $34 million.

    Six years ago, California voters were asked to approve Proposition 86, which would have taxed tobacco by an additional $2.60 a pack. That measure failed.

    With about a million ballots uncounted, Prop 29 supporters won’t say “uncle” yet.

    Elections officials in the state’s 58 counties have until July 6 to report their final tallies.