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Backers of Prop. 29 tobacco tax concede defeat

June 22, 2012 |  2:33 pm

Proponents of the tobacco tax initiative on the June 5 ballot conceded defeat Friday after weeks of holding out hope that the measure would eke out a victory as elections officials across California tallied an estimated 1 million uncounted ballots.

“The defeat of this life-saving initiative is a genuine tragedy," said Doug Ulman, president and chief executive of the Lance Armstrong Foundation, which backed the measure known as Proposition 29. "Big Tobacco lied to voters to protect its profits and spent $50 million to ensure it can continue peddling its deadly products to California kids.

“We will not let this setback defeat us," he continued. "In a time when one in two men and one in three women will be diagnosed with cancer in our nation, we must continue fighting for new investments in cancer research and smoking cessation.”

The measure on Friday was losing by more than 27,000 votes with only 111,000 uncounted ballots remaining -- realistically too few to close the gap.

Proposition 29 would have added a $1-per-pack tax on cigarettes, and an equivalent amount on other tobacco products, to raise an estimated $860 million a year for research on tobacco-related diseases and prevention programs. The American Cancer Society and cycling champ Lance Armstrong, a cancer survivor, were among the measure’s biggest proponents, raising more than $11 million to support the ballot initiative.

Tobacco companies poured nearly $47 million into their campaign to defeat Proposition 29 and were joined by anti-tax and business groups.


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-- Phil Willon