Battling it out over new smoking tax

As California’s 2012 primary election lumbers closer, supporters and opponents are making sure voters are told what to think about Proposition 29.

Prop 29, which will appear on the June 5 ballot, would place a dollar per pack tax on cigarettes sold in California. Supporters of the bill spoke out this weekend against the tobacco industry-supported No on 29 ads.

The controversial ads for No on 29 show a family doctor urging voters to vote against the bill because:

“It raises $735 million in tobacco taxes, but not one penny goes to new funding for cancer treatment.”

Supporters of Prop 29 counter this argument by citing the actual bill itself, which says a majority of the money would to go research of cancer and tobacco-related disease and tobacco prevention programs. Less than two percent would go towards administration costs.

Health professionals gathered at Children’s Hospital Oakland this weekend and argued that the ads are trying to confuse voters by showing a family doctor urging against Prop 29.

Harvard University Dr. Jonathan Winickoff explained that the ads are deceptive because the tax money would go towards research into the prevention and treatment of cancer. He told KCBS:

“Their only hope is to try to confuse the public, but despite the vast resources of big tobacco, they don’t vote in California, the people do.”

Opponent donors have contributed $39.7 million to the campaign, with more than $23 million of that money coming from — tada — tobacco giant Philip Morris.

Supporters of Prop 29, which includes the American Cancer Society and Lance Armstrong Foundation, and the American Lung Association, have spent around $4 million on their campaign.

Dr. Cathy McDonald with the Alameda County Tobacco Dependence Treatment Program added that prevention programs paid for by the taxes collected under this bill will also help prevent children from taking up the habit. She told KCBS:

“Here in California, we have missed 14 opportunities to raise tobacco taxes because the tobacco industry knows they must replace those who are quitting and dying with our youth.”

Opponents of Prop 29 go on to say that the bill creates more bureaucracy and allows money to be spent outside of California. However, supporters debunk those claims in this video.