Prices are advertised for cigarettes March 30, 2009 in New York City. Credit: Spencer Platt/Getty Images
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 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 it, and point 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 the public are knowledgeable, and unpredictable how anti-smoking campaigns may sway voters.
Would you vote for a tax like this?
Tracy Westen, CEO of Center Governmental Studies
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