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Save Lives California launches $2 million campaign to raise state’s tobacco tax



June 23, 2016
Area(s) of Interest: Access to Care Advocacy Public Health 

On Monday, a coalition of physicians, dentists, health care workers and health organizations announced the launch of a $2 million campaign to raise California’s tobacco tax and reduce the impacts smoking has on the state’s health care system.


In May, the Save Lives California coalition filed two ballot initiatives with the California Attorney General’s Office that would increase the state’s tobacco tax by $2 per pack on cigarettes. One includes electronic cigarettes in the tax, while the other focuses solely on combustible cigarettes.


Money generated from the measures would be directed to California’s health insurance program for low-income families, Medi-Cal, and to “smoking prevention, cures, and strengthening a health care system strained by tobacco-related disease,” according to a coalition press release.


Two measures currently in the state legislature — Senate Bill 591 and Assembly Bill 1396 — would also accomplish this. However, with the announcement of the $2 million investment, organizers said they are prepared to put the decision in the hands of voters if the legislature does not act.


 “Save Lives California’s launch with $2 million shows the determination California’s doctors, dentists, health care workers and health advocates have to prevent tobacco-related disease and save lives,” Laphonza Butler, president of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) California and SEIU United Long-Term care Workers, said in a statement.


“If Republican-controlled legislatures and Governors in Nevada, Kansas and Louisiana can find the political will to pass tobacco taxes this year,” she added, “we know the California legislature can and must follow suit.”


Gov. Jerry Brown’s recent announcement to hold a special legislative session to address the issues surrounding the Medi-Cal program also provides an opportunity to “relieve the deadly toll tobacco-related disease takes on Californians and the steep costs smoking places on California taxpayers,” Butler stated.


California ranks 34th in the country for its tobacco tax, which hasn’t been raised since 1998. The current tax is 87 cents a pack. The ballot initiatives would raise it to $2.87 a pack.


Organizations participating in the Save Lives California Coalition include the California Medical Association; American Lung Association, California; American Heart Association; Blue Shield of California; and several other health and labor organizations.


For more information, visit www.savelivescalifornia.com.

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