Big Tobacco defeats Prop. 29 cigarette tax in California

A ballot measure to fund cancer research by raising the cigarette tax in California was narrowly defeated yesterday. 

Proposition 29, which would increase the tobacco tax by $1 per pack, received 49.2% of the vote, falling short of passage by a mere 1.6%. The most recent election results showed 1,894,487 votes cast in support of Prop. 29 and 1,958,047 votes against the measure.

Read more: Surgeon General warns of youth smoking epidemic

However, supporters of Prop. 29 have refused to concede defeat as more than 1 million mail-in and provisional ballots have yet to be counted.

“Prop 29 is and has always been about saving lives and fighting tobacco-related diseases. With less than 1 percent separating defeat from victory, we remain vigilant and ever hopeful, no matter how long the odds,” according to a statement released by Californians for a Cure, a pro-Prop. 29 coalition made up of the American Cancer Society, American Lung Association, American Heart Association, and Cancer Research Doctors. “We will closely monitor the counting of late absentee and provisional ballots over the next two days. This race is still too close to call, and we remain hopeful that the victory will ultimately be ours. Millions of Californians who will benefit from passage of Prop 29 are not giving up the fight because today, more than 155 people in the state will die from cancer.”

The measure’s (presumed) defeat marked a significant victory for the tobacco industry, which plunked down more than $36 million to kill Prop. 29.

Read more: Support drops for California’s Prop 29 cigarette tax, poll shows

Philip Morris USA, which markets the Marlboro, Parliament, and Virginia Slim cigarette brands, contributed nearly contributed about $27.31 million to the No on 29 campaign. R.J. Reynolds, the company behind the Camel, Monarch, Salem, and Winston cigarette brands, contributed about $12.06 million to defeat Prop. 29. The No on 29 campaign also received about $1.14 million worth of “non-monetary” or in-kind contributions from the California Republican Party this year, according to campaign finance disclosures.

In contrast, supporters of Prop. 29 were only able to spend under $10 million to convince the public to vote for the measure.

The well-funded opposition attacked Prop. 29 for creating “a huge new bureaucracy with no strict controls to make sure our money is spent wisely.” The anti-Prop. 29 ads also attacked the measure for spending $125 million on “salaries, overhead and buildings” as though people should expect cancer research to be conducted outdoors, without electricity, and for free.

Supporters of Prop. 29 argued that raising the cigarette tax by about $1 per pack would generate much-needed revenue to accelerate research to cure cancers, some of which could be blamed on poor lifestyle choices such as smoking. In addition to finding cancer cures, Prop. 29 supporters pointed to recent research that increasing the cost of cigarettes will “save lives” by discouraging and preventing an estimated 200,000 from smoking.


Unofficial election results on Proposition 29 “Tax on Cigarettes for Cancer Research”: 

Yes votes: 1,894,871 or 49.2%

No votes: 1,958,047 or 50.8%

* SOURCE: California Secretary of State, results updated on June 6, 2012, 4:43 a.m


Total campaign expenditures from Jan. 1, 2012 through May 19, 2012: 

No on 29 (with major funding by Philip Morris USA and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco): $36.33 million

Yes on Prop 29 / American Cancer Society: $3.77 million

Yes on 29 / Californians for a Cure (American Cancer Society, American Lung Association, American Heart Association, and Cancer Research Doctors): $5.79 million

*SOURCE: Campaign finance disclosures filed with the California Secretary of State, retrieved on June 6, 2012


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One Comment on “Big Tobacco defeats Prop. 29 cigarette tax in California

  1. Pingback: Support drops for California's Prop 29 cigarette tax, poll shows | What The Folly?!

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