Save Lives California files 2016 cigarette tax initiative

October 07, 2015
Area(s) of Interest: Access to Care Advocacy Public Health 

Sacramento, CA – Today, the Save Lives California coalition joined by businessperson and philanthropist Tom Steyer, submitted an initiative to the Attorney General’s office that would increase California’s cigarette tax by $2 per pack.

“We need to protect our kids from the dangers of smoking, and that means standing up to the tobacco companies,” said Tom Steyer. “These companies profit from a product that kills millions of people around the world every year and is the leading cause of preventable death in California. We have a moral obligation to increase the tobacco tax because it will save lives and money by encouraging smokers to quit, and by preventing young people from ever becoming addicted.”

“The California Healthcare, Research and Prevention Tobacco Tax Act of 2016 is an opportunity to halt the number one cause of preventable death in California – smoking addiction. The money raised through this initiative will do even more good, by helping us cure tobacco-related diseases that kill so many Californians,” said Laphonza Butler, President of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) California.  “SEIU workers are health care professionals, home care workers and parents and family members who refuse to see another generation of Californians lured into the deadly addiction of tobacco.  We’re proud to be part of Saves Lives California and put this opportunity to save lives before California voters.” 

Save Lives California is a coalition of doctors, dentists, healthcare workers and advocates dedicated to saving thousands of lives and millions of dollars in California by reducing smoking rates. Members include the American Lung Association in California, American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, the California Medical Association, California Dental Association, Service Employees International Union and Blue Shield of California, among others. 

Studies from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health shows that ninety percent of smokers start as teens. In California, 21,000 kids get hooked on smoking every year, and half of them will die from tobacco-related illnesses. 

“The initiative filed today will benefit Californians by reducing smoking rates and long term healthcare costs,” said Luther Cobb, M.D., President of the California Medical Association. “Smoking is the number one cause of preventable death in California, killing more people than car accident, suicide, alcohol, illegal drugs and AIDS combined. What’s more, this initiative will help find cures for cancer, heart disease and other smoking related illnesses that we see far too much of.”  

Recent public polling shows that voters overwhelming support a tobacco tax, across party lines.

“We know what the people of California think.  A Field Poll released in August shows two-thirds support raising the cigarette tax by $2 per pack,” said ACS CAN California VP Jim Knox.  “Lives are on the line and we can’t let the tobacco industry have the upper hand when it comes to sound public health policies.  Nearly 40,000 people die needlessly from tobacco-related diseases such as cancer each year in California.”

California’s cigarette tax of only 87 cents a pack is currently one of the lowest in the nation. Every state in the country except Missouri has raised their cigarette tax since California’s last hike in 1998. 

“Reducing smoking saves lives and health costs, plain and simple,” said Olivia (Gertz) Diaz-Lapham, President and CEO, American Lung Association in California. “The initiative filed today will help prevent teens and young adults from taking up the habit and developing a lifetime of addiction. The money generated from the tax will be used to prevent smoking, improve healthcare and to fund research cures for cancer and tobacco related illnesses.”

“This initiative will help fund treatments and potential cures for oral cancers and other tobacco-related diseases that dentists see in our patients,” said CDA President Walt G. Weber, DDS. “This change is not only sensible and necessary, it’s good for the health of Californians."


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