Upcoming prop to tax smokers

by Kevin Smead

Proposition 29 will add an additional $1 to the 87 cent tax on cigarretes. Most of its revenue will go toward cancer research. | Thinkstock
Proposition 29 will add an additional $1 to the 87 cent tax on cigarretes. Most of its revenue will go toward cancer research. | Thinkstock

Next month, Californians will vote on two ballot measures that are quickly becoming prominent as debate surrounding them heats up.

While Proposition 28, reduces term limits for members of the state legislature by two years (from 14 to 12), Proposition 29 focuses on an issue that directly affects all Californians.

The proposition, which was placed on the ballot by petition, would impose an additional $1 tax on each pack of cigarettes. This would increase the tax on cigarette packs from 87 cents to $1.87. Proponents of Proposition 29 claim this tax would raise between $700 and $800 million a year. This money would specifically fund research to find cures for cancer and other tobacco-related illnesses.

“If I thought all that money would actually go to cancer research I might be for it. But I think it’s basically just another way for the government to try and discourage smokers (along with all the extra taxes, non-smoking areas, warning labels, etc),” non-smoker Rachael Butcher said.

The proposed la,w titled Hope 2010: The California Cancer Research Act, allots varying percentages of funds to different aspects of cancer research. Sixty percent of the funds accumulated will flow directly into the Hope 2010 Research Fund, which is the portion of the act set aside specifically for research grants. Fifteen percent of the funds will be put toward providing equipment and facilities to be used for the research. Twenty percent will be allotted to the Hope 2010 Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Fund, which focuses on the regulation and prevention of tobacco use, including the implementation of tobacco education programs.

“I don’t necessarily think it’s fine to target smokers only, but when it’s for something as important as cancer research, I don’t care at all.” television, film and new media senior and smoker James Reese said. “You also have to consider the fact that we, as smokers, may benefit later from the research we are helping to fund now.”

The remaining 5 percent is directed toward committee costs and law enforcement programs that combat the sale of untaxed and illegal tobacco.

The implementation of these measures is to be overseen by the Hope 2010 Cancer Research Citizens Oversight Committee, which is made up of members from state health offices and members of the scientific community.

The proposition is supported by the American Cancer Society, the American Lung Association and the American Stroke Association, as well as many other cancer-related organizations.

The ballot measure is not without its opposition, though. The “No on Prop 29” campaign is very vocal in expressing its stance, claiming the proposition is the brainchild of a “career politician,” and“the so-called California Cancer Research Act, is a flawed and poorly drafted measure that would create a new unaccountable state bureaucracy filled with political appointees.”

The group behind the campaign calls itself Californians Against Out-of-Control Taxes and Spending. With the vote less than a month away, nearly $40 million has been spent on the No on 29 campaign. The largest donors include cigarette companies Phillip Morris USA and R. J. Reynolds.

The rhetoric used by the anti-Proposition 29 group spotlights the omission of the state budget from the measure, the potential wasteful spending, “conflicts of interest” and the assertion that this measures circumvents a tax requirement, which mandates 40 percent of tax revenue must go toward schools.

The measure will be voted on June fifth.