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Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Proposition 29 Results Are Close Enough to Make You Want to Chain Smoke

Posted By on Wed, Jun 6, 2012 at 4:13 PM

Will Prop 29 end up crumpled and lifeless in an ash tray?
  • Will Prop 29 end up crumpled and lifeless in an ash tray?

It's all gotta be part of Big Tobacco's plan. Tobacco companies pumped more than $46 million into the campaign against Proposition 29, which would increase the tax on cigarette packs by $1.

Perhaps they could have donated more money. Instead, they might have struck the exact minimum amount necessary to defeat the ballot initiative.

Because now, deep into the afternoon of the day after the election, Prop. 29 results remain too close too call. It could be days before a definitive answer.

So, in the meantime, the faithful on either side must be pulling out their hair, and biting their nails, and grinding their teeth, and pacing in circles... chain-smoking.

Just how Big Tobacco drew it up!

At press time for this morning's paper, the Chronicle reported that Prop. 29 was slightly ahead, 50.4 percent to 49.6 percent. By the morning, though, the Associated Press reported that the initiative was losing, 50.8 percent to 49.2 percent.

Just two or three months ago, it didn't seem like this vote would be so close. A Public Policy Institute of California poll showed that more than two-thirds of voters supported Prop. 29. But that was before the $46 million "No on 29" advertising wave. By comparison, Prop. 29 advocates, including Lance Armstrong and NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg, have contributed $11 million.

When PPIC took another poll in late May, 53 percent of Californians supported Prop. 29, even though 63 percent supported "increasing taxes on cigarette purchases." Clearly, the anti-29 strategy of untying the initiative from people's feelings about smoking worked.

That tax hike would send $735 million a year toward cancer research, and tens of millions more toward programs that help people quit smoking. Those against the plan argue that none of the money is helping decrease the state's budget deficit, none of the money is going toward education, not one dime is going toward cancer treatment, and that the money is allowed to go into other states.

Supporters counter that, saying a $1 tax increase has nothing to do with the state budget, and that this is solely about helping researchers defeat cancer and helping people give up their smoking habit. The money might go into other states, but only because there are cancer research facilities there. And the money isn't going toward treatment because there is no definitive cure for cancer yet.

If it passes, Prop. 29 would bump California's cigarette tax from the 33rd highest in the nation to the 16th. According to the city's Department of Elections data, San Francisco is the most pro-29 county in the state. Initial returns showed that 73 percent of us voted "yes."

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Albert Samaha


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