California cigarette tax: Voters divided in north, south
California voters are on track to narrowly reject Proposition 29, a proposed cigarette tax on the ballot Tuesday, according to the latest results from the California secretary of state.
With nearly 4 million ballots counted, and all precincts reporting, the no vote holds 50.8% of the tally with a slim lead of just more than 63,000 votes.
Anatagonism was strongest in Southern California, where a majority of voters in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego and Ventura counties voted no.
Los Angeles County was nearly evenly split, with 50.7% of the more than 700,000 voters casting a no vote. But opposition was much higher in surrounding counties with majorities of 60% or more in opposition.
Support for a new tax was strongest in the Bay Area, where large majorities voted yes, including nearly 75% of San Francisco voters.
Tobacco companies poured nearly $47 million into their campaign to defeat Proposition 29, a tax designed to raise about $860 million a year for research on tobacco-related diseases and prevention programs.
The American Cancer Society and other proponents predicted that the increase in cigarette prices would stop 220,000 children from starting to smoke and encourage 100,000 current smokers to quit. They raised more than $11 million, including $500,000 from New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and $1.5 million from cycling champion Lance Armstrong's Livestrong Foundation.
Backed by the tobacco money, a coalition of anti-tax and business organizations mounted an aggressive campaign against the initiative, including a flood of television commercials and campaign mailers. The proposition, they argued, would create an unaccountable bureaucracy and allow the tax dollars to be siphoned out of California.
— Ben Welsh and Anthony Pesce
Photo: A map of Proposition 29 results showing the margin of victory in each of California's counties. Credit: Ben Welsh and Anthony Pesce / Los Angeles Times