California democrats endorse $2-per-pack tobacco tax increase

March 07, 2016
Area(s) of Interest: Advocacy Public Health 

On Feb. 28, the California Democratic Party joined the growing list of organizations that have endorsed the Save Lives California coalition’s efforts to increase the state’s tobacco tax by $2 per pack.

“California Democrats are ready to once again make our state a national leader in helping smokers quit and protecting teens from tobacco,” said Jim Deboo, Save Lives California campaign manager. “The party’s early endorsement reflects the unprecedented grassroots support for the Save Lives California campaign.”

The California Healthcare, Research and Prevention Tobacco Act of 2016 aims to save lives and prevent youth smoking by increasing the state’s tobacco tax, a levy that currently sits at just 87 cents per pack – among the lower rates in the nation – and hasn’t been raised since 1998.

With its official endorsement, which becomes effective once the initiative qualifies for the November 2016 ballot, the California Democratic Party joins the California Medical Association (CMA), American Heart Association, American Lung Association in California, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network and many other public health advocates in supporting a $2 tobacco tax increase in the state.

But first, supporters need to collect the hundreds of thousands of signatures necessary in order to qualify the measure for the upcoming ballot. Volunteers were doing just that at the California Democratic Party convention, held from Feb. 26-28 in San Jose.

“We felt really empowered,” said Pooja Desai, chair of CMA’s Medical Student Section, “and that we were all coming together for a really important cause.”

Desai, a second-year student at the University of California, Riverside School of Medicine, helped gather signatures with fellow medical students from across the state. Together they spoke to thousands of lawmakers and convention guests about the dangers of smoking and the tolls of tobacco use.

“It was amazing,” Desai said, adding that she was delighted to work beside other members of the Save Lives coalition. “Because everyone was so engaged, we were able to bring the tobacco tax discussion to a really high level and convince people how important this initiative really is.”

By the end of the weekend, the Save Lives booth had collected more than 1,100 signatures in support of the initiative.

Every year, smoking costs California taxpayers billions of dollars and hooks more than 16,000 youths. Studies show that for every 10 percent increase in the cost of a pack of cigarettes, teen smoking drops by up to 6.5 percent.

The initiative would also apply to e-cigarettes, placing an equivalent tax on those and other products containing nicotine derived from tobacco. This would help reduce teen e-cigarette use, which tripled between 2013 and 2014.

To find out how you can help save lives and prevent teen smoking, go to www.savelivesca.com.

Philanthropist and Save Lives California Coalition member Tom Steyer (center), pictured with
California medical students.


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