Big Tobacco adds nearly $9 million to fight against cigarette tax
On Thursday, the parent companies of Philip Morris USA and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. reported nearly $9 million in contributions to the opposition campaign. That gives the tobacco companies a war chest of more than $23.5 million to fight the ballot measure, which is projected to raise more than $850 million a year to be used to fund cancer research, build new research facilities and aid anti-smoking programs.
The opposition campaign's name telegraphs the message to come: Californians Against Out-Of-Control Taxes and Spending.
By comparison, supporters of the cigarette tax, including the American Heart Assn., the American Lung Assn., and the American Cancer Society, have raised $2.9 million. Half of that comes from the foundation of Lance Armstrong, the seven-time Tour de France champion and cancer survivor.
Tobacco companies appear to be fighting public sentiment. A USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll last month found that 68% of California voters favored Proposition 29, compared with 29% who opposed it.
Still, the public has rejected a variety of tax increases in recent years, including tobacco levies. In 2006, voters spurned a proposal to increase cigarette taxes by $2.60 a pack to reimburse hospitals for treating uninsured patients and to expand health insurance coverage for children.
-- Michael J. Mishak in Sacramento
Photo: Helen Heinlo smokes outside a coffee shop in Belmont, Calif., in 2007. Credit: Paul Sakuma / Associated Press