Give Big Tobacco a Kick in the Ash and Save Lives

What could be more pressing than ending suffering and death from cancer — a disease that kills 155 people every day in California?

A yes vote on Proposition 29 on June 5 to increase the tobacco tax by $1 will save lives from cancer and other lethal diseases caused by tobacco, protect kids from the tobacco industry’s predatory marketing, ease the enormous economic burden of tobacco use on the state and fund groundbreaking medical research on the leading killer diseases.

Yes on 29 is an opportunity to tell Big Tobacco that enough is enough. That we’re tired of the industry’s relentless assault on our children, our health and our economy. Proposition 29 was written by the state’s leading public health groups – the American Cancer Society, American Heart Association and American Lung Association – to empower Californians to fight back against Big Tobacco’s ongoing campaign of addiction and death. Proposition 29 will also help reverse tobacco’s debilitating drag on California’s economy, saving the state billions of dollars in health costs.

The tobacco industry spends every minute of every day surreptitiously recruiting new customers: our kids. During the past decade, Big Tobacco invested 10 times more on marketing its deadly products in California than the state spent on educating the public about its harmful effects. The tobacco industry spends more than $650 million each year targeting our state with deceptive marketing designed to recruit their next generation of customers – and has already spent nearly $40 million to distort the truth on Proposition 29.

The industry’s efforts are devastatingly proficient: California’s kids buy or smoke more than 78 million packs of cigarettes each year. Nearly¬†90 percent of the smokers in California started smoking before their 18th birthday.

Increasing the price of tobacco products is the most effective tool we have to safeguard kids in all communities from Big Tobacco’s marketing. As tobacco becomes more expensive, the products are less appealing. Research shows that every 10 percent increase in the price of tobacco reduces youth smoking by 6.5 percent. A $1 increase in the cost of cigarettes will result in 228,000 fewer California kids becoming addicted smokers – giving them a fighting chance against cancer and premature death.

The tobacco tax increase will help current smokers, too. Proposition 29 doubles funding for programs to help smokers quit. And when a state increases a tobacco tax, birth complications caused by smoking decline and tobacco-related illnesses and deaths diminish significantly. Bottom line:

Raising the price of tobacco products by $1 will save more than 100,000 lives.

These tremendous health benefits won’t just save lives; they’ll also save California money. California’s cigarette tax is currently 87 cents, but smoking costs the state more than $15 for every pack sold. The annual health care expenditures in California directly caused by tobacco use total more than $9 billion – including nearly $3 billion spent on smoking-related issues in Medicaid. That’s money that could be invested back into the state’s economy — more important than ever in a time when California is facing economic challenges.

Overall, Proposition 29 could save the state more than $80 million in health costs within five years and more than $5 billion long-term as a result of the declines in adult and youth smoking.

A yes vote packs a one-two punch for saving lives – not only by reducing smoking but also by investing millions in cancer research. Passage of Proposition 29 will generate more than $500 million annually as a new protected fund for medical research that can be spent only in California, at California facilities, supporting California researchers and patients.

Proposition 29 will guarantee a steady investment to support research in California at a time when federal funding for research has never been more threatened. That means researchers won’t lose their funding or their jobs, potential breakthroughs in treatments won’t languish in labs and access to clinical trials will continue or increase at cancer centers across the state. The investment will also create 12,000 new jobs and approximately $1.9 billion of new economic activity in California.

California has some of the best cancer research facilities in the world.

Adequately funding them ensures patients in the state can access some of the most cutting-edge clinical trials available, right in their backyards — which means they have more time to spend at home and more time to spend getting well.

Big Tobacco is doing all it can to distract Californians from the truth: that tobacco is the only legal product that kills when used as directed.

The choice is clear. Yes on Proposition 29 isn’t just a good idea to stem the tide of the tobacco pandemic in California, it’s a necessity.

Yes on 29 saves lives, protects kids, boosts the state economy and invests in cancer research that will directly benefit Californians today and for generations to come. We are confident that voters will make the right choice on June 5.

John R. Seffrin is the CEO of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network and the American Cancer Society. Lance Armstrong is a cancer survivor and advocate, cycling champion and co-chair of the Yes on Prop. 29 campaign. This post first appeared in the LA Daily News.

5 replies »

  1. Living in CA you can’t smoke anywhere. I don’t have any numbers about decline of smoking but I know that it certainly isn’t seen as something cool out here. Smokers are outcasts here which is not the case in most other parts of the country. I’m shocked when I return to see my family in the midwest…not only does everyone smoke or chew tobacco they do it in restaurants, bars, clubs, in your face walking down the street.

    If more places, physicians, officials took a stand against tobacco I think it would be less acceptable and people fearing out lash and ridicule will slowly shy away from it.

  2. In New York City, the combined federal, state and local cigarette tax is now $6.85 per pack and the smoking rate is down to 14% of the population. The downside is that bootlegging became very profitable business in the NYC cigarette market but this is one case where high taxes are a good thing, at least from a health perspective.

  3. Appreciate someone taking a stand against tobacco. How these idiots wrote PPACA and took no action against tobacco was just stupid!

  4. Cost is the single-most effective deterrent to smoking, studies show. And prevention is key, as always.

    But why does this bill allow for the duplication of already existing tobacco control programs? Doesn’t seem like an efficient use of resources for a bill that proposes economic relief for California.