The human and financial costs of cancer are staggering, and now California’s voters are being given a chance to fight back by approving a new tax of  $ 1 per pack of cigarettes.  If the new tax is approved, most of the money generated would be used to fund cancer research.  The proposed new tax will be voted on in June during primary voting – the tax is embodied in Proposition 29. 

The tax is plainly a good idea, especially when one considers the enormous costs of cancer. For the globe, annual direct and indirect costs of cancer are estimated at $1.5 trillion, annually, as described before on this blog.  And, the numbers for the US alone are staggering, as described in a press release from the NIH.  "Based on growth and aging of the U.S. population, medical expenditures for cancer in the year 2020 are projected to reach at least $158 billion (in 2010 dollars) – an increase of 27 percent over 2010, according to a National Institutes of Health analysis. If newly developed tools for cancer diagnosis, treatment, and follow-up continue to be more expensive, medical expenditures for cancer could reach as high as $207 billion, said the researchers from the National Cancer Institute (NCI), part of the NIH. The analysis appears online, Jan. 12, 2011, in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute."

Set out below are key excerpts from a new Science magazine article on Proposition 29: 

"The ballot for the state’s Republican presidential primary contains a measure, Proposition 29, that would impose an additional tax of $1 on each pack of cigarettes sold and an equivalent tax on other tobacco products. According to a state analysis, the measure would generate about $735 million a year in new revenue, of which $441 million would be slated for grants and loans to support research on cancer, cardiovascular disease, and other tobacco-related illnesses. Another $110 million would annually go toward research facilities.   “It would be unprecedented. We’d become the second largest funder of cancer research in the world, next to the [U.S.] National Cancer Institute [NCI],” says former state senator Don Perata, who authored the measure. NCI has a budget of about $5 billion—it spent upward of $490 million on research grants and contracts in California alone in 2011—and Proposition 29 would, at the least, put California on par with the biggest international funders, such as research charity Cancer Research UK ($531 mil lion annually), and ahead of Texas, which passed a 2007 bond measure that will generate $3 billion for cancer research over 10 years."   As usual, big tobacco is spending heavily to preserve its ability to sell disease and death. According to data reported in the Science article, the numbers for supporters and opponents are as follows:   "Supporters are being outspent this time, too. They’ve raised $4.2 million, with ACS and the Lance Armstrong Foundation each kicking in roughly $1.5 million. Opponents, led by a $14.7 million contribution from Phillip Morris, have so far raised $23.7 million to defeat the measure."