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Big Tobacco launches dishonest ad campaign about Prop. 56



August 19, 2016
Area(s) of Interest: Advocacy Public Health 

Tom Torlakson, California’s state superintendent of public instruction, has demanded that broadcasters immediately stop airing false and deceptive ads from tobacco companies about the Proposition 56 tobacco tax initiative.


Big Tobacco, which has put $36 million into the opposition campaign so far, continues to assert that Prop. 56 would take money away from education — a statement Torlakson called “preposterous” and “insulting to those of us committed to the education and well being of California’s children.”


“It is absolutely untrue to claim that no money from the proposed tobacco tax would go to schools,” Torlakson wrote in a legal declaration that is part of a demand to stations to cease and desist broadcasting the ads.


“Make no mistake, Proposition 56 will not divert a dime away from schools," Torlakson said. "Rather, it will raise revenues for school-based tobacco prevention and intervention programs."


The Legislative Analyst’s Office estimates that Prop. 56 would add tens of millions in new funding for comprehensive anti-tobacco instruction and cessation efforts in California classrooms. Sales taxes are imposed on top of any excise taxes, including Prop. 56’s tobacco tax, so an increase in the tobacco tax would also increase sales tax revenues, which are largely allocated toward schools.


Supporters of Prop. 56 said they expect this is the beginning of a barrage of lies from tobacco companies, who will spend tens of millions peppering the airwaves with deceptive advertising.


The California State PTA, representing more than 800,000 school advocates, has joined the many education and children’s advocacy groups that are part of the broad coalition supporting Prop. 56, which also includes the California Medical Association, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Lung Association in California and American Heart Association.


Prop. 56 will protect children by increasing California’s cigarette tax by $2 per pack, with an equivalent increase on products containing nicotine derived from tobacco, including electronic cigarettes. It will keep kids from ever starting to use deadly, addictive tobacco products, and it will save lives.


“We know that increasing tobacco taxes reduces youth smoking. Tobacco companies know this too. That is why they are spending millions to obfuscate the provisions of Prop. 56 and mislead voters about its impact on schools,” Torlakson wrote. “As educators, neighbors, parents and grandparents, we aren’t fooled. Tobacco companies do not care about our children, they want to create a new generation of consumers.”


To view a side-by-side refutation of the tobacco companies' claims in their dishonest ad campaign, click here. To send your own letter demanding stations take down Big Tobacco’s lying ads, click here.


For more information on Prop. 56, see www.YesOn56.org.

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