Big Tobacco Opposition Defeats Prop 86 Tobacco Tax Initiative

$65 million from tobacco companies' influences vote on tobacco tax increase

November 8, 2006

California voters narrowly defeated Prop 86, the proposed $2.60 increase to the California tobacco tax that aimed to lower smoking rates and improve public health. R.J. Reynolds and Philip Morris tobacco companies funneled at least $65 million into their persistent opposition campaign to mislead the public about how Prop 86 revenue would be used and how it would affect Californians. The tobacco companies funded 99.9% of the opposition to Prop 86 and spent more than three times the amount raised by Prop 86 supporters. Big Tobacco met its goal and as a result, the health of Californians and funding for important public health and tobacco prevention efforts will be negatively impacted.

The same tobacco companies that funded the opposition to Proposition 86 were recently found to have violated federal racketeering laws for engaging in a fifty-year conspiracy to deceive the public about the dangers of smoking and secondhand smoke. Evidently unchastened by that ruling, the companies spread misinformation and lies about the impact of Proposition 86 and the uses of its revenue. Big Tobacco's shameless bankrolling of voter confusion and undermining of public health should serve as a reminder to those who think this industry has somehow reformed.

"Despite what tobacco companies may say about corporate responsibility, their actions speak for themselves," said Cynthia Hallett, Executive Director of Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights. "R.J. Reynolds and Philip Morris are racketeers. There is nothing socially responsible about spending millions of dollars to undermining public health and tobacco prevention policies recommended by the Centers for Disease Control. It is reprehensible for the tobacco industry to continue spending billions of dollars a year to support killing millions of people through nicotine addiction."

The tobacco industry used similar tactics and messages during the landmark Proposition 99 campaign of 1988 in an unsuccessful attempt to prevent an increase in the cigarette tax. The industry spent more than $21 million to defeat this important measure, knowing that increasing the tax, creating public awareness campaigns, and offering smoking cessation services would be detrimental to tobacco industry profits and would help to deglamorize the use of tobacco and the acceptability of smoking in public places.

"The Prop 86 tobacco tax increase would have been an important part of California's comprehensive tobacco control program to fund tobacco prevention and cessation programs that work to save lives," Hallett added.

Had Prop 86 passed, the revenue generated from the initiative would have reduced smoking and saved lives by funding effective tobacco prevention programs and providing meaningful cessation assistance to smokers who want to quit. The reduced smoking rates would have resulted in an annual savings of $16 billion in health care costs. The Prop 86 revenue would also have provided immediate help to some of California's major health care challenges, including children's health coverage, emergency and trauma care, and health research in the areas of tobacco control, lung cancer, and other tobacco-related diseases.

Tobacco tax increases are an effective way to help prevent people from starting to smoke and they provide an impetus for people to stop smoking. Tobacco tax increases were passed by voters yesterday in South Dakota by a vote of 61% and in Arizona by a vote of 53%, and defeated in Missouri by 51.5%.

Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights is a national, member-based, not-for-profit organization based in Berkeley, CA that is dedicated to protecting nonsmokers' from secondhand smoke and youth from tobacco addiction.

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