Proposition 29, also known as HOPE 2010: The California Cancer Research Act, imposes an additional $1 per pack tax on cigarettes, increasing the tax to $1.87. Revenue from the suggested tax would fund research for cancer and tobacco-related diseases. The increased tax will raise about $735 million annually by 2013-14 for research and tobacco prevention programs.
The purpose of the measure is to fund efforts to decrease tobacco use and research on cancer, cardiovascular disease, emphysema, and other tobacco-related diseases. Those in favor of the measure, including the American Cancer Society, and the American Heart Association, argue that the Prop. 29 will save lives and prevent children from smoking. Based on results from previous federal taxes, they speculate that about 118,300 adult smokers will quit, and youth smoking will decrease by 13 percent.
Those against the measure, including Californians Against Out-of-Control Taxes and Spending, question how the money will be spent. The opposed argue that Prop. 29 incites more wasteful spending that diverts money away from education and paying off the more than $10 million state deficit. They are concerned that Prop. 29 creates another tax under a special fund, which means that unlike taxes that feed the general fund, this money raised cannot be used in public schools or to pay off the state deficit. However, it does not differ from other taxes that raise millions of dollars under special funds. Another concern is that the money may be spent outside of the state because the measure does not use language that says funds must be spent in California. The research is not required to be done in California, nor do the economic benefits stay in California.
The most prominent question opponents pose about this measure is whether or not California should be using tax money for these purposes. Is research for smoking-related illnesses a priority for California tax dollars? Smokers currently make up about 12.8 percent of the population in the state, a relatively low number compared to the overall average of the 20.6 percent in the United States. However, minorities suffer disproportionately from smoking-related illnesses. Tobacco use is among the causes of heart disease, cancer, and stroke, which are the leading causes of death in African Americans. Supporters of the measure stress that taxes raised from the measure will address concerns such as these for all who are at risk for smoking-induced diseases. According to founder of Village P.R.O.J.E.C.T.S, Dr. Gloria Willingham-Toure’, because Prop. 29 funds research for cancer and tobacco-related diseases and “it opens the doors to really fund the kinds of research we know we need.”