Voters in California Weigh Cigarette Tax to Fund Cancer Research

Jun 5, 2012 6:05pm

While you were watching the news-leading story of the recall election in Wisconsin, voters in California today were deciding whether to raise taxes on cigarettes to fund cancer research.

The tobacco fight on the West Coast has gotten the attention of a presidential primary. Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds have spent almost $46 million on TV and radio ads against the proposed tax hike, which would be $1 per pack of cigarettes.

The initiative has brought about one of the most expensive election fights in recent memory, even though anti-tobacco advocates had spent just $3 million on advertising. Their effort, led by Lance Armstrong, included a parody ad that involved people saying things like: “I support big tobacco because they killed my wife. And that’s one less mouth to feed.”

The ballot question — Proposition 29 — was supported widely in California when it was announced, but the contest now appears to be much closer because of the influx of the ads from the tobacco industry. The industry’s campaign featured a doctor in a white smock speaking out against the proposed hike. After voters initially favored the tax by 37 points in one poll, a recent survey showed that lead had been cut down to 11 points.

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