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CA Health Groups Push $2 Tobacco Tax Hike

PHOTO: Two new ballot initiatives have been filed to raise cigarette taxes by $2 per pack in California. The money would fund an expansion of Medi-Cal, medical research and anti-smoking programs. Photo credit: trestle/morguefile.com
PHOTO: Two new ballot initiatives have been filed to raise cigarette taxes by $2 per pack in California. The money would fund an expansion of Medi-Cal, medical research and anti-smoking programs. Photo credit: trestle/morguefile.com
May 11, 2015

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – The price of cigarettes could go up by $2 a pack if two new ballot initiatives are approved next year.

The Save Lives California Coalition just filed papers with the state attorney general to ask voters to hike taxes on traditional tobacco products and on e-cigarettes in 2016.

The coalition estimates it would raise $1.5 billion in the first year – money that would be used to expand access to Medi-Cal, fund research into smoking related diseases and improve anti-smoking efforts.

Kimberly Amazeen, a vice president of the American Lung Association California, says tobacco companies spent heavily to defeat similar ballot measures in 2006 and 2012.

"California has not increased its tobacco tax since 1998,” she points out. “We're currently at 87 cents per pack, which ranks 33rd in the nation for tobacco taxes."

Supporters are also going the legislative route – pushing for several similar bills currently under consideration in Sacramento.

The Save Lives California Coalition includes, among others, the American Heart Association, the American Lung Association, the American Cancer Society and the California Medical Association.

Opponents say tobacco taxes disproportionately affect low-income residents.

Amazeen says raising the price encourages people to make better choices.

"Increasing the cost of tobacco is widely recognized as the most effective way to reduce smoking across California, especially with our young people,” she states. “Just by raising the tax alone, it will keep kids today from trying their first cigarette."

Supporters maintain that over the past 20 years, anti-smoking programs have prevented 1 million deaths and saved taxpayers $134 billion in health care costs.


Suzanne Potter/Scott Herron, Public News Service - CA