CA: Cigarette tax defeated after bruising opposition

by
June 23, 2012

Marisa Lagos, San Francisco Chronicle

Sacramento — Supporters of Proposition 29, the $1-a-pack cigarette tax hike, conceded defeat Thursday, more than two weeks after the election and following a bruising and expensive campaign by opponents.

While more than 100,000 votes have yet to be counted, the Yes on 29 campaign said in a statement Thursday that it was unlikely to overcome a nearly 28,000-vote deficit. As the votes were tallied over the past 16 days, the tax has been consistently losing, albeit by less than a percentage point.

The loss means that California’s tobacco tax will remain the 33rd lowest in the nation.

Still, supporters called it, “the closest ballot initiative in California history,” and pointed out that big tobacco companies, led by Philip Morris, spent nearly $47 million to defeat the tax, which would have raised about $810 million a year for cancer research and anti-smoking programs.

Supporters, led by public health groups, raised about $12 million.

“Out-of-state tobacco’s victory was a defeat for the public health of every Californian,” the statement read. “The tobacco industry spent more than $200 for every child that they want to eventually take up smoking. It’s a sad day for California and for the millions of Californians who are fighting and will fight cancer, heart disease and lung disease.”

Officials on the No side said with 111,000 ballots still being counted by county registrars, they are not ready to declare victory.

“We are enormously encouraged but we are going to wait and see until all votes are counted,” said No on 29 spokeswoman Beth Miller.

Opponents ran a barrage of television and radio ads, arguing that the tax on cigarettes and other tobacco products would simply create a new state bureaucracy and that there was no guarantee the money would actually benefit California researchers. The media blitz worked: While the tax had overwhelming support in May, when 67 percent of likely voters told pollsters at the Public Policy Institute of California they would support the measure, that backing plummeted by 14 points by the end of May.

To read more, visit: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2012/06/22/BAES1P6DUR.DTL#ixzz1yZzbmL3T

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