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  • Writer's pictureKirk Hartley

Tobacco Wars Continue: California Secretary of State Certifies Ballot Initiative to Raise Tobacco Ta

Tobacco sales continue today thanks to "big tobacco" long ago obtaining federal law preemption against most product liability claims. The industry strategy was both brilliant and deadly. Then, when litigation risks were closing in from cost recovery lawsuits by the states, the tobacco settlement kept the industry moving ahead as it locked states into enjoying the tax revenue being used to fund state budgets.

So, industry won a couple of times, and therefore people keep smoking and dying. In that light, it’s good to see some potential offset ahead from a California ballot initiative to raise tobacco taxes by $ 1 per pack, with proceeds to fund cancer research. The initiative’s website is here.

The initiative was officially certified on August 24, 2010 by the California Secretary of State, as described here. The net result is that the initiative will be on the ballot for the 2012 national election.

The organizers of the initiative would love financial support for the battle ahead to get the initiative passed. Set out below are key excerpts from the Secretary of State’s website:

The Attorney General’s official title and summary of the initiative is as follows:

IMPOSES ADDITIONAL TAX ON CIGARETTES FOR CANCER RESEARCH. INITIATIVE STATUTE. Imposes additional five cent tax on each cigarette distributed ($1.00 per pack), and an equivalent tax increase on other tobacco products, to fund cancer research and other specified purposes. Requires tax revenues be deposited into a special fund to finance research and research facilities focused on detecting, preventing, treating, and curing cancer, heart disease, emphysema, and other tobacco-related diseases, and to finance prevention programs. Creates nine-member committee charged with administering the fund. Summary of estimate by Legislative Analyst and Director of Finance of fiscal impact on state and local government: Increase in new cigarette tax revenues of about $855 million annually by 2011-12, declining slightly annually thereafter, for various health research and tobacco-related programs. Increase of about $45 million annually to existing health, natural resources, and research programs funded by existing tobacco taxes. Increase in state and local sales taxes of about $32 million annually. (09-0097.)

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