Calif. group pushes for $1 tobacco tax increase for cancer research

Chris Rizo Nov. 17, 2009, 1:26am

Don Perata (D)

Grant Gillham

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Legal Newsline)-Smokers in California will have to dig much deeper into their pockets to buy a pack of cigarettes next year if a proposed ballot measure passes.

The Californians for a Cure plan is aimed at raising millions of dollars for cancer research, smoking prevention programs and to help bankroll anti-tobacco smuggling efforts. The measure is backed by, among others, cancer research and health advocates.

Their plan calls for a buck increase in the state's excise tax on tobacco, to $1.87 per pack. The money raised would flow into a trust fund. Sixty-cents of the dollar raised from a pack of smokes would to go to fund research on cancer and other smoking-related illnesses.

Under the plan, 20 cents would go to fund smoking cessation and tobacco use prevention programs, 15 cents would go to help fund research facilities, while three pennies would go to fund tobacco smuggling enforcement.

The plan calls for about two percent of the revenue to go for administrative costs.

How the money would be spent would be overseen by a nine-member oversight committee.

The panel would include three directors from California's National Cancer Institute-designated cancer centers, three University of California chancellors from the California Institute for Quantitative Biological Research, a practicing California physician and two advocates from disease groups.

Proponents of the plan will have to gather at least 433,971 valid registered voters' signatures to put the measure on next year's November statewide ballot. Three years ago, California voters rejected a similar proposal.

This year's plan is supported by former state Senate President Pro Tempore Don Perata, the Democrat who plans to run for mayor of Oakland next year. He touted the plan at a press conference Monday in Oakland.

State lawmakers had considered this year raising the state cigarette tax by $1.50 to help raise revenue amid a historically severe cash crunch.

Under that tax plan, 85 percent of the revenue would have gone into the state General Fund and 15 percent into the proposed Tobacco Tax and Health Protection Fund for tobacco control, tobacco disease research and lung cancer research.

Grant Gillham, a veteran political consultant based in California who's worked tax issues in nationally for the last two decades, told Legal Newsline at the time that there is not public support for tax hikes.

"The public at large (is) not really interested in new taxes," Gillham said.

He added that the proposed sin tax would come at a bad time for many California businesses and consumers, who are already feeling the pinch of the nation's economic downturn.

"This would be another brutal financial hit," said Gillham, a consultant for the nation's oldest tobacco company, Greensboro, N.C.-based Lorillard Tobacco Company.

From Legal Newsline: Reach staff reporter Chris Rizo at

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