A California ballot measure that would have added a US$1 tax to the price of each pack of cigarettes sold in the state was narrowly defeated, its opponents conceded on 22 June. The measure would have funded a $500-million research enterprise as well as smoking-cessation and smoking-prevention efforts. Although the vote on the measure took place on 5 June, state officials took weeks to count a large number of mail-in and provisional ballots on Proposition 29, which ended up losing by less than 1 percentage point.
The Proposition 29 campaign blamed an advertising campaign funded by tobacco companies for the measure’s loss. Although two-thirds of voters supported it in March, voters were evenly split on the proposition by May after tobacco companies rolled out an ‘anti-29’ ad campaign across the state.
“Big Tobacco’s $50-million misinformation campaign will rob Californians of the ability to invest more than $500 million annually in cancer research, save more than 104,000 lives, stop more than 228,000 kids from smoking and reduce long-term health-care costs by more than $5 billion,” the campaign said in a statement.
Stanton Glantz, director of the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at the University of California in San Francisco, and a Proposition 29 supporter, cited other reasons for the campaign’s loss, including the Los Angeles Times recommendation for a ‘no’ vote on the proposition, the fact that the proposition did not mandate that the proceeds of the tax be spent in California, a “weak media campaign” on behalf of the proposition and media coverage of the ‘no’ campaign.
Glantz also suggested that the ‘yes on 29’ campaign should have placed less emphasis on research and should have attacked tobacco companies directly.
“Rather than taking on Big Tobacco, [Proposition 29 supporters] tried to sell cancer research. Our earlier work shows that this was not the way to got [sic] from the beginning,” Glantz wrote in a post on his blog.
Glantz suggested that supporters of Proposition 29 should improve and reintroduce the measure in a future election.
“I think that 29 was reasonably well-conceived but there is definite room for improvement,” Glantz wrote. “I know that this is scary for the sponsors who would have to come up with the money, but we just can’t let down all the people who worked so hard on this campaign.”