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Prop. 29 could crush out some smokers with tax
Proposition 29 is on the June 5 ballot. If approved by a majority of voters, it would raise the tax on a pack of cigarettes by $1, making it $1.89 per pack. Revenues would be used for tobacco research and quitting programs.
We asked our Facebook fans what they think about the measure, and here's what they said:
We already have a tax on cigarettes, and though I'm not fan of smoking ... well I'm no fan of double taxation either. I'm also not too sure about the money actually making it to the research groups ... if anything it should be used to provide medical care for those affected by smoking.
— Jennifer M. Gray
No new taxes on cigarettes! There is so much taxation on cigarettes that the taxes are nearly 60% of the cost over the counter!!! That means it costs approximately $2.50 to produce the pack of cigarettes, but the total cost out the door is now over $6.00 per pack. Does that sound unfair to anyone else?
— Ruth McGuire
The bill was sponsored by the American Heart Association, The American Cancer Society and the American Lung Association. I'll side with them before the Phillip Morris Tobacco Company!
— Jan Atkinson Michel
I am all for funding cancer research, but I would guess this tax will be just like the last one and fund nothing more than a bureaucratic commission to twiddle their thumbs.
– Renae Curt
If a statewide ballot initiative passes next month, smokers may have problems from withdrawals at the bank more than from trying to quit.
Proposition 29 would raise the state tax on a pack of cigarettes by $1, more than double the 89 cents smokers in California pay now.
As a pack a day smoker, Angela Bennett of Yuba City said she'll be spending $50 to $60 a week if the proposition passes.
"I won't be able to smoke anymore," she said, after she had a cigarette Monday outside a Sutter County Superior Court building. "But people will find a way to get cigarettes no matter what."
The ballot measure, which requires a simple majority to pass, would be the first statewide tax hike on cigarettes in more than a decade, since Proposition 10 in 1998 created the First 5 boards in every county. The national average for cigarette taxes is about 60 cents higher than the rate in California.
Jim Knox, vice president of government relations for the American Cancer Society, said because the tax is less, the state doesn't have enough money for its anti-smoking programs.
Most of the revenues from the tax, which the state estimates would be about $735 million a year annually, would be used for research on diseases caused by tobacco use and for programs to prevent and help quit tobacco use.
"With any type of special tax, we feel and the voters feel there should be a nexus between the tax and what it pays for," Knox said.
Where the money's going is exactly what concerns measure opponents, who said there are far better purposes than what is stipulated in the measure.
"I don't think it's a real good idea to send more money to Sacramento," said Ryan Schohr, a farmer in Gridley who was described by the No on 29 campaign as a coalition member. "Let's keep the money local."
Approving the measure, he said, would create a new bureaucracy in state government with little oversight, a situation he said could be compared to the high-speed rail project.
Much of the funding for the No on 29 campaign comes from tobacco companies, including a new round of donations late last week totaling $15 million.
Backers for the measure, which include the American Cancer Society's California division and a campaign committee created by former state Sen. Don Perata, D-Oakland, believe the higher rate will convince more people to quit and put more money into researching health issues faced by smokers, who tend to be lower income.
Knox said as much as a third of the medical costs in California related to smoking are paid by MediCal, the state's medical coverage for low-income residents.
"We believe lowering smoking rates will save the state money," he said.
Samantha Renfrow, a Yuba City resident who said she smokes about half a pack every day, said she needed to research the initiative more.
But generally, she said, she feels like smokers have been picked on enough.
"Why don't they tax people who drink soda?" she said, adding she's not sure yet how she'll adjust if the measure is successful.
"I know some people, though, if they quit smoking, they could pay a lot of bills," she said.
CONTACT Ben van der Meer at email@example.com or 749-4786. Find him on Facebook at /ADbvandermeer or on Twitter at @ADbvandermeer.