Smoke-Filled Election

Ballot initiatives on tobacco taxes, alcohol availability, minimum wage were on the agenda Tuesday

OAK BROOK, Ill. -- The Big Tobacco companies came away from Tuesday's midterm election with a collective sense of relief, as Californians voted down a ballot initiative that would have quadrupled the state's cigarette taxes to the highest level nationwide, reported the Associated Press.

Of three other states that had excise tax proposals pending Tuesday, one in Missouri was also rejected while two others, in Arizona and South Dakota, passed.

Industry-related ballot initiatives around the nation included:


In Arizona, voters approved the Smoke-Free Arizona Act, prohibiting smoking in enclosed public areas and workplaces. Enforcement of the Act will be paid for by a tax of one-tenth of a cent per cigarette, or about two cents a pack. Additionally, Arizona voters said yes to a tax increase on tobacco products to fund early-childhood development and health programs, said The NewStandard.


Californians rejected additional taxes on cigarettes to fund health care. They also rejected Proposition 87, a measure that would have used new taxes on oil production to fund alternative-fuel development, AP added.


Massachusetts voters rejected a ballot initiative, Question 1, that would have allowed wine sales in grocery stores and convenience stores, the AP said.

Chris Flynn, president of the Massachusetts Food Association, said voters were misled by a negative, scare campaign by his opponents' emphasis on the fact that the initiative would allow convenience stores, gas stations and mini-martsnot just supermarketsto apply for wine licenses.


In Missouri, Missouri voters put more money into the pockets of low-income workers while sparing smokers from a large tax increase, said AP. The minimum wage increase passed with overwhelming support Tuesday, while a separate ballot measure to raise tobacco taxes for the benefit of health care efforts narrowly failed for the second time in four years.

Proposition B will increase Missouri's minimum wage from the current $5.15 an hour to $6.50 an hour effective Jan. 1, 2007, with an automatic increase each year to keep pace with inflation.

The failed tobacco tax measure would have raised the state cigarette tax from the current 17 cents to 97 cents a pack, while increasing taxes on other tobacco products to 30% of the manufacturer's invoice price instead of the current 10%. The measure was projected to generate at least $351 million annually, which would have gone toward health care and anti-tobacco programs.


In Nevada, Question 4, a business-backed initiative called the Responsibly Protect Nevadans from Second-Hand Smoke Act, which would have imposed minimal restrictions on smoking in areas of bars and restaurants that allow children, failed, AP said. Instead, voters approved the Clean Indoor Air Act backed by public health groups. It bans smoking in any bars that serve meals, as well as in slot machine sections of grocery and convenience stores, video arcades, shopping malls, school grounds and day-care centers. Question 5, which still permits smoking in gambling areas of casinos, was approved. Nevadans rejected selling legalized marijuana at state-sanctioned pot shops.

Voters gave final approval to setting Nevada's minimum wage $1 above the federal standard, currently $5.15 an hour, with 69% voting yes and 31% voting no. It also includes automatic cost-of-living increases based on inflation, capped at 3% a year, unless the federal government raises its minimum wage,something that hasn't happened since 1997.


Oregon's Democratic Governor Ted Kulongoski defeated challenger Ron Saxton, reported The Register-Guard. But he ran on a campaign promising expanded services such as increased state police patrols, more spending on schools, and health care for all low- and middle-income children without insurance. To pay for such expansions he said he would increase corporate taxes and raise the cigarette tax.

South Dakota

South Dakota voters have decided to nearly triple the state tax on cigarettes, AP reported. The measure was written to set the state tax on cigarettes at $1.53 a pack and boost the 10% wholesale tax on other tobacco products to 35%.

Supporters said they hope it will reduce smoking and other tobacco use. Opponents argued it was unfair to increase taxes to change behavior. Officials estimated the higher taxes would raise another $40 million a year, which would double existing tobacco revenues.

Opponents of higher tobacco taxes had said the tax increase would cause a huge loss in state revenues because cigarette sales would drop and many cigarettes would be smuggled into the state from places where they're cheaper.

South Dakota's citizens also voted to keep video lottery. Voters have supported the state-sanctioned games four times since it began 17 years ago.


Voters across Texas approved initiatives to allow beer and wine sales in retail locations, including convenience stores, although several municipalities voted the measure down, said The Dallas Morning News.

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