Coalition submits signatures to qualify life-saving tobacco tax for ballot

May 20, 2016
Area(s) of Interest: Advocacy Public Health 

The Save Lives California coalition this week submitted more than enough signatures to qualify a life-saving tobacco tax initiative for the November statewide ballot. The initiative – supported by a broad alliance of physicians, health care advocates, educators and others – would raise California’s tobacco tax, which is currently among the lowest in the country, to $2.87 a pack.

The majority of the money from the initiative’s user fee on cigarettes and other tobacco products, including e-cigarettes containing nicotine, would be used for health programs and research into cures for cancer and other illnesses caused by smoking and tobacco products.

“Sadly, we see tobacco’s deadly and costly toll every day in our hospitals and clinics. Cancer and other tobacco-related diseases kill more people than car accidents, murder, suicide, alcohol, illegal drugs and AIDS combined,” said Steven Larson, M.D., M.P.H., president of the California Medical Association (CMA). “The heart of this initiative is simple: Taxing tobacco saves lives by getting people to quit or never start smoking. The only people who will pay are those who smoke. If you don’t smoke, you don’t pay.”

The measure, The California Healthcare, Research and Prevention Tobacco Tax Act of 2016, aims to prevent a new generation of kids from taking up a deadly, addictive habit. Nearly 17,000 California kids get hooked on smoking every year; half of them will eventually die from tobacco-related illnesses.

The measure will also help curb the alarming rise in the use of e-cigarettes. Teen use of e-cigarettes grew 10-fold in the past four years, and teens who use e-cigarettes are three times more likely to start smoking traditional cigarettes within one year.

“It is unconscionable that the tobacco industry is targeting children for a lifetime of addiction with candy-flavored electronic cigarettes containing nicotine, with popular children’s themes such as Hello Kitty, Minions, Barbie and Hot Wheels,” said Elizabeth Martin, a cancer survivor and volunteer legislative ambassador for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. “We cannot, and will not, be fooled. Nicotine is dangerous and addictive, no matter how it is delivered.”

California taxpayers pay $3.5 billion annually to treat cancer and other tobacco-related diseases. A user fee on cigarettes is a matter of fairness – it shifts the fiscal burden to smokers for these medical programs, smoking prevention and research.

The California Healthcare, Research and Prevention Tobacco Tax Act of 2016 is backed by Save Lives California, a coalition of health advocates and others that includes the American Heart Association, American Lung Association, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, CMA, SEIU California, California Hospital Association, Blue Shield of California, California Dental Association and philanthropist Tom Steyer.

Join the fight to save lives as an official supporter of the Save Lives California campaign

If you haven’t already, be sure to add your name to the growing list of Save Lives California supporters. It’s easy – all you have to do is click this link and enter your email address and zip code. By doing so, you can be among the first to say “I’m in” to fight for a $2 tobacco tax increase in California.

For more information on the initiative, visit www.savelivesca.com.


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