San Jose, CA – “The Surgeon General‘s Warning: Quitting Smoking Now Greatly Reduces Serious Risks to Your Health.” California smokers always see this on a pack of cigarettes but do not really pay that much attention. But with a new tax law aimed at increasing the sales tax for cigarettes and discourage smoking, some may actually consider kicking the habit.
The Tobacco Tax for Cancer Research Act or Proposition 29 is an initiative statute proposed anti-cancer and health groups who are seeking an additional $1 tax increase per pack of cigarette sold. The money to be collected will used to fund cancer research. It is up for voting on the presidential primary ballot come June 5, 2012.
Proposition 29 was supposedly up for voting since February 2012 but with California Gov. Jerry Brown encountering problems promoting his Tax Increase Proposition in Sacramento, the bill was kept on being pushed forward.
California has the strictest laws when it comes to the consumption of cigarettes. There are laws that even prevent people from smoking in their own homes. The smoking population in California is one of the lowest in the country based on a survey that was conducted by the California Department of Public Health back in 2008. The survey entitled, “Two Decades of the California Tobacco Control Program: California Tobacco Survey, 1990-2008” showed that Yolo had the lowest prevalence with 7.7%, San Jose (in Santa Clara county) with 8.0% while the highest prevalence of smokers were from the counties of Merced, Butte, and Tuolomne. Major cities like San Francisco came in at 13.5% Sacramento at 14.0% while Los Angeles was just at 10.4%.
California has been waging a war to curb the addiction on cigarettes. Back in 1998, 4 major tobacco companies, namely: Philip Morris Incorporated, R.J. Reynold Tobacco Company, Brown % Williamson Tobacco Corporation and Lorillard Tobacco Company; along with other cities and states entered into the biggest civil lawsuit settlement. The different states, including California and the tobacco companies signed a Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) which came from lawsuits that were filed against the tobacco companies by different states to recover costs acquired from medical services (ex. Medicaid) to treat smoking-related diseases.
But with all these strict measures, most do not know that California also has one of the lowest sales tax rates for cigarettes. Currently, the sales tax per pack of cigarettes is $0.87 per pack and each pack is sold at an average of $5.71. With the new sales tax, it will be an additional dollar to the current $0.87 making it $1.87 in sales tax per pack of cigarette sold.
But the tobacco industry is putting up a fight and has been lobbying hard to shoot down Proposition 29. The tobacco industry’s bribes contributions to campaigns and politicians has made it possible why the sales tax on cigarettes has remained the same for the past 14 years.
California has been aggressively promoting the cessation of cigarette smoking but with the intense lobbying of the tobacco companies and their allies, the support for the bill went down from 67% last March to 53%.
Proposition 29 has received mixed reviews, some are urging people not to vote for it like The Los Angeles Times. They claimed that they were uncomfortable to side with the tobacco companies but they are urging people to turn down Proposition 29. On the other hand, The American Cancer Society has contributed $7 million to support the cause.
Estimated to earn $735 million, critics of Proposition 29 argue that people do not trust the Legislature to receive such an amount and also receiving the additional tax burden in an already tax paranoid society does not justify the cause of Proposition 29 which is to curb smoking.
In a more politically tinged note, Larry Gerston opined that Proposition 29’s fate would be dependent if Mitt Romney has been elected as the Republican candidate for the presidential bid because more Republicans would be attending the polls instead of Democrats if the GOP party was still undecided. And if more Republicans attend, this would mean a big NO for Proposition 29 because the GOP voters are against the bill while the Democrats are against it.
June 5 is just around the corner and every person’s vote counts. Will smokers stop smoking because of the increase in cigarette prices or will they continue and just die of cancer or some other dreaded smoke-related disease. Please start casting your votes.