Opinion: Vote yes to raise tobacco taxes

Publisher’s note: This editorial is from the April 22, 2012, Sacramento Bee.

Despite its reputation as an unwelcoming place for smokers, California ranks 33nd among states in taxing tobacco. Smoking-related diseases cost us hundreds of millions of dollars yearly in health care and lost productivity. Thousands of young people get hooked on nicotine each year.

California can do better. To save lives, it must do better.

Passage of Proposition 29, on the ballot in June, would be a major breakthrough for public health. This initiative would add $1 to the per-pack tobacco tax in California, currently 87 cents.

There is no dispute that raising the price would result in significant declines in smoking. Health groups backing the tobacco tax hike estimate that it would cause 118,000 adults to quit smoking and prevent 228,000 young Californians from becoming addicts.

Increasing the tax would raise more than $700 million yearly, and under Proposition 29, nearly all of it would go to cancer research and smoking cessation.

While the revenues would decline over time as smoking rates dropped, the funding would nonetheless help scientists come up with better treatments for cancer patients, and possibly new ways to detect tumors in their most early stages.

Opponents of Prop. 29 – largely the tobacco industry and groups that receive funding from cigarette companies – are trying to derail the initiative as the work of “a washed-up politician,” former state Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata. It’s true that Perata, a survivor of prostate cancer, helped launched the initiative and has raised money for it. But Prop. 29 is supported by the American Cancer Society, the American Lung Association, the American Heart Association and other reputable groups and individuals that can’t be smeared by the “taint” of serving in public office.

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Comments (7)
  1. earl zitts says - Posted: April 29, 2012

    Smoking related diseases save hundred of billions of dollars by prematurely ending smokers lives by a decade or more.
    This says bundles of money for Social Security and Medicare. Why is this never addressed by the anti-smokers. The smokescreen of increased health costs is balony. Think about it.

    The longer you live the more chronic degenerative diseases prevail requiring intense, expensive medical care over longer periods of time.

  2. tahoeadvocate says - Posted: April 29, 2012

    Raise taxes on tobacco for those people who have State funded healthcare. If you are providing your own insurance, you aren’t costing the taxpayer anything and should be able to use affordable tobacco.

  3. Careaboutthecommunity says - Posted: April 29, 2012

    I agree with Earl.

    If enough people continue to smoke, Social Security has a chance of becoming solvent, if too many quit, we’re all in trouble!

  4. snoheather says - Posted: April 29, 2012

    It just goes to show how bad our country has become when people can sit and hope for people to continue smoking so they die earlier and can’t collect Social Security (which everyone pays for, smoker or not).

  5. earl zitts says - Posted: April 30, 2012

    Learn to understand what you read. No one is hoping for anyone’s death. It was pointing out a major flaw when calculating the demise of Social Security and the associated costs of health care in the corroding years.
    Keep increasing the costs and watch an active black market develop.

  6. Randall Stafford says - Posted: May 10, 2012

    Randall Stafford · Professor of Medicine at Stanford University School of Medicine

    Please don’t let a desire for the perfect tobacco tax initiative subvert the tremendous good that can come from voting YES on Prop 29.

    Tobacco taxes have been proven to reduce consumer demand for cigarettes, particularly among teens. Young smokers are particularly vulnerable to developing a life-long smoking habit, but often don’t have the perspective to fully see through the allure portrayed in cigarette advertising.

    Tobacco is not your average consumer product and should be treated differently. There is no other product that can be legally sold that causes such tremendous harm when used exactly as it is intended. Compared to other states, California’s current tax is small, ranking 33rd among all states.

    When you consider Proposition 29, think about the devastating consequences of tobacco-related disease. Whether through heart disease, stroke or cancer (as well as other conditions) smoking greatly increases the risk of death, the risk of disabling disease, and the cost of health care. While I see smoking related disease on a daily basis as a primary care physician, the victims of tobacco-related disease are all around us as friends, colleagues and family members.

    Please vote YES on Proposition 29.

  7. 2012 Tax Brackets says - Posted: May 28, 2012

    The reason the government will not change anything, but rather continue in their increased deficit spending, is because this entire default/downgrade to the US is/has been engineered. Planned and set up years ago…to accommodate the Globalist agenda….