California to Vote on Tobacco Tax Hike

Could proposed $2-per-pack increase ripple to other municipalities?

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Californians manage to influence the rest of the nation with their laws. That may be why the state’s proposed $2-per-pack tax on cigarettes and “equivalent increases” on OTP (other tobacco products) and e-cigarettes is drawing the attention of major tobacco lobbies, according to a Bloomberg report.

California Proposition 56, officially called the “Cigarette Tax to Fund Healthcare, Tobacco Use Prevention, Research and Law Enforcement,” would allocate revenue for healthcare and prevention programs, among other state initiatives, and possibly influence other municipalities if voters approve it Nov. 8.

The measure will bring in an estimated $1 billion to $1.4 billion in 2017-2018, with potentially lower revenues in future years, according to the proposition.

Proponents for the legislation, including the American Cancer Society, Atlanta, and the American Heart Association, Dallas, said the move will tax tobacco users while funding prevention and treatment efforts and deterring smoking among youth.

Tobacco manufacturers are mounting a major campaign against the tax, saying that most of the revenue will go to health-insurance companies and special interests. Voter documents report that groups opposing the measure have raised twice as much money, at $35 million, than those supporting it, $17 million.

California is an important battleground for the tobacco industry because policies approved there tend to be adopted by other municipalities, according to a Bloomberg report. The state’s 39 million people bring weight to any tobacco-tax decision, possibly deterring anti-tobacco advocates in more conservative states from pursuing similar changes if the measure fails, the New York-based news agency said.

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