Big tobacco is putting up millions to fight a new cigarette tax: the $2-per-pack proposal will be on Californian’s November ballot as Proposition 56.
The measure’s supporters say deceptive ads are flooding the airwaves, while opponents say it’s the other side that is really being untruthful.
Thursday, anti-smoking advocates showed up at a rally in front of San Francisco City Hall with vaporizers in the shapes of Minions and Poke Balls to again accuse tobacco makers of targeting kids.
“It is not cool. It is addictive and it is dangerous,” said Dr. John Maa, a thoracic surgeon affiliated with Marin General Hospital and who supports Prop 56.
Some proponents of Prop 56 include: The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Lung Association in California, American Heart Association, California Democratic Party, and various lawmakers.
“It was a shock – ash tray full of cigarette butts hidden in a drawer,” San Francisco Supervisor Eric Mar said of when he caught his 16-year-old daughter smoking. “It makes me scared because I talk about health all the time, but yet she’s impacted by this predatory marketing.”
Currently, the state tobacco tax is 87 cents, and has not been raised since 1999. Proponents of Prop 56 want to make this $2.87, to dent smokers’ wallets enough to quit. In the first year, the tax is expected to bring in $1 to 1.4 billion.
And, for the first time, the tobacco tax would apply to e-cigarettes that contain nicotine.
Opponents of the proposition, such as the California Republican Party and Philip Morris, take issue with the constitutional amendment. They say only 13 percent will go towards education and the amendment is a way to bypass Proposition 98, which requires at least 43 percent of any tax increase to go to school funding.
“We’re opposed to it because it’s deceptive. It’s not going to help the children like new taxes are supposed to do, it’s mainly going to help large insurance companies,” California RNC national committeewoman Harmeet Dhillon said.
The “Yes on 56” campaign says this is statement is both “false and reckless,” and Prop 56 will add $20 million in new funding for classroom instruction and dollars not earmarked for education will go towards offsetting a portion of the $3.58 billion-per-year taxpayers spend to cover tobacco-related illnesses through Medi-Cal.
Dhillon, an attorney, says the devil is in the details, or fine print, of the proposition. She’s all for smoking cessation, she says, but not like this.
“I think if 100 percent of this money was to go to stop people from smoking, that would be okay, but plain English of the measure isn’t that way,” Dhillon said.
Mar says taxes have been proven way to curb smoking.
“I know that for passing policies like this that we have good transparency in ensuring that the money is spent wisely so that every penny is going to community based efforts to reduce smoking addiction,” Mar said.