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Election Watch: Proposition 29

The measure would raise $735 million to prevent smoking and fight cancer, but supporters say the State should first address other budget priorities.

In addition to a tight race for the Democratic nomination in California's Assembly District 51, Northeast Los Angeles voters will also be tasked with deciding the futures of Propositions 28—which would alter term limits—and 29, which would increase taxes for funding state-supervised cancer research.

Proposition 29

The proposition would increase the tax on every box of cigarettes sold in California by $1, bring the total tax-per-box to $1.87. The money raised--approximately $735 million per year according to the California Legislative Analyst's Office (LAO)--would fund a variety of cancer research and smoking cessation measures.

According to the LAO, 60-percent of the funds would be used to provide "grants and loans to support research on prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and potential cures for cancer and tobacco-related diseases." 

The measure states that "all qualified researchers would have an equal
opportunity to compete for these research funds."

The second largest portion of the funds--20-percent--would be used by the California Dept. of Public Health to fund smoking cessation programs. Fifteen-percent would be spent building facilities and purchasing equipment necessary for cancer research.

Other portions of the funds would go toward increased law enforcement and administrative costs.

What They're Saying

According to the Ballotpedia.com, a combined $58.9 million has been raised to lobby both for and against Proposition 29. A wide majority the money--$46.7-percent--has been raised by the opposition.

A key argument against the measure is that grant funds could be won by out of state researchers, however, in a letter to the Los Angeles Times, supporters Sherry Lansing and Kristiina Vuori said there is "clear language" in the measure that requires funds to be spent in California.

Lansing, CEO of Paramount Picture Group, is the co-founder of the group Stand Up to Cancer. Vuori, M.D., Ph.D., is a member of Stand Up to Cancer and sits on on the board of directors of the American Association for Cancer Research.

The Los Angeles Times

No on Prop. 29:

Proposition 29 is well intentioned, but it just doesn't make sense for the state to get into the medical research business to the tune of half a billion dollars a year when it has so many other important unmet needs. California can't afford to retain its K-12 teachers, keep all its parks open, give public college students the courses they need to earn a degree or provide adequate home health aides for the infirm or medical care for the poor. If the state is going to raise a new $735 million, it should put the money in the general fund rather than dedicating it to an already well-funded research effort. Funding priorities shouldn't be set at the ballot box.

The American Heart Association

Yes on Prop. 29:

The proposed $1 tobacco tax – paid only by those who purchase tobacco products – will save 104,000 lives; stop 228,000 kids from smoking; and generate approximately $735 million every year to support life-saving research and tobacco prevention programs. Prop 29 will also provide vital funding to make advances in prevention, detection and treatment of heart disease, stroke and other smoking-related illnesses.

Sixty cents of every dollar will go towards lifesaving research of tobacco related illnesses like heart disease and stroke, the No. 1 and No. 4 causes of death for Californians. The tobacco tax will reduce California’s smoking rate, reduce death and disability from cardiovascular diseases and stroke, and reduce public exposure to secondhand smoke.

Local Reaction

LAUSD Local District 5 Board Member Bennett Kayser, who worked as a middle school health teacher for 14 years,  has publicly stated his support of the measure.

“As a middle school health teacher of 14 years, I am committed to protecting the next generation of children from the well-documented harms of smoking. Proposition 29 has gained the support of the Board of Education because it will save lives; for every 10-percent increase in the price of a pack of cigarettes drops youth smoking by 6.5-percent."

Nelson R Grande II June 05, 2012 at 07:35 PM
The tobacco companies wouldn't be the only ones. It would, most directly, affect those who choose to smoke. The people are taxed very much already and the money would go to the government. It would go to government programs to help cessation and lung cancer research. So, in essence it's an insurance scheme. You're charging those who may or may not get lung cancer for a service they may or may not use. All the while, there's a guaranteed base for larger government coffers. While I don't like the shenanigans of the tobacco companies, I think the systematically corrupt government deserves it least.
Nelson R Grande II June 05, 2012 at 07:53 PM
Sally, no one forces one to smoke. So, the replacements are fair. Are we going to charge extra taxes on foods that contain saturated fats, people that eat at McDonald's, chemical products, etc? There is a beautiful list of cancer causes (http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/causes). Why are we targeting only one of those? Why not tax EVERY PERSON who buys something on that list? Hmm. It seems more expensive hair dyes for everyone is in order. Proposition 29: It's a flawed and shortsighted plan. P.S. LADWP uses Fluoridated water. It's on the list.
Nelson R Grande II June 05, 2012 at 07:59 PM
Oh yeah. And please let go of the 'Youth' argument. Children don't need to be put in cages for their protection. We can't bubble wrap the world. Somehow, we have this view that children are or should be ignorant. Goodness. Instead, TEACH kids about smoking and its risks and EMPOWER THEM make the decisions. Education folks. That's the answer; Education.
Sharon June 06, 2012 at 06:04 PM
I am not a smoker and never have been but I vote NO to prop 29 due to the fact that if we get taxed on this the money does not stay within California only and will go to other states and it will not go to cancer research...So my vote is No on 29
Sharon June 06, 2012 at 06:06 PM
I do not smoke and never have, I vote NO on Prop 29 due to the fact that we are being taxed but the money does not stay within California and can go to other states. And that none of the money will go to cancer research...NO on Prop 29

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