Anti-tobacco measure likely on June special election ballot

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Anti-tobacco activists are rallying behind California’s latest effort to raise taxes on cigarettes. KPCC’s Patricia Nazario reports on what tobacco companies are doing to oppose the statewide ballot measure.

The measure’s called the California Cancer Research Act. Supporters say it’ll help promote cancer cures, save lives and prevent kids from picking up the tobacco habit.

L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa says it’ll also create jobs. He says the measure could generate nearly $600 million a year for cancer research in California, “to support groundbreaking cancer research. Whether that’s research here at Cedars-Sinai, UCLA, 'SC, UC Irvine, it is money well invested.”

“Not just in California," said retired cyclist Lance Armstrong. Armstrong helped to launch a campaign for the ballot measure at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Beverly Hills.

"Don’t forget," said Armstrong, "whatever happens or is created or invented or changes in California goes everywhere. Think about that.”

Armstrong is a seven-time Tour de France winner, testicular cancer survivor and cancer-research activist.

Tobacco companies RJ Reynolds and Philip Morris oppose the cancer-research measure. Philip Morris formed a political action committee in early February to block it.

The tobacco industry has defeated the last dozen attempts to raise tobacco taxes in California. Voters will decide the measure in the June, if Governor Jerry Brown successfully pushes for a special election.