Californians will head to the ballot box in June to vote on Prop 29, which if passed, would boost taxes on a pack of cigarettes in California by $1 (it’s currently .87 cents – and $4.35 in New York).
That would raise an estimated $735 million annually, most of which would go to cancer research. If the cigarette tax works as an effective smoking deterrent, that would also mean an estimated $1 billion loss to the California tobacco industry. Tobacco companies have so far spent $21 million to defeat the initiative.
They’re also representing themselves as California Against Out-of-Control Taxes and Spending, which is appealing to anti-tax sentiments to oppose the proposition, pointing out that the provision allows out-of-state organizations to bid for the cancer research dollars.
The campaign is being closely watched since California hasn’t approved a tobacco tax increase in 14 years and data shows that heavy spending to persuade voters to reject ballot measures usually works pretty well—voters are predisposed to vote “no” on initiatives. On the other hand, it’s tougher to defeat initiatives when the public is knowledgeable, and unpredictable as to how anti-smoking campaigns may sway voters.
Would you vote for a tax like this?
Katy Grimes, Californians Against Out-of-Control Taxes and Spending, a coalition of taxpayers, small businesses, law enforcement and labor
Tracy Westen, CEO of Center for Governmental Studies