Apologies to readers who are not California voters. I need to talk briefly about Prop 29, the initiative on the June 5, 2012 California ballot. It’s a proposal to raise the state’s cigarette tax by $1.00 a pack to fund cancer research.
A little background before I get to my reasons for voting no on this proposition. The current tax on cigarettes in California is $0.87 per pack. That’s not the highest (in fact, California ranks 33rd among the states; the highest tax is $4.35 per pack in New York), but it’s pretty high as a percent of the cost of a pack. A few years ago, when this initiative was first contemplated, a study was done of the impact of raising the tax. The study found that increasing the tax would drive more smokers to the black market to buy cigarettes and that revenue from the cigarette tax would actually decline.
I have no reason to believe that that study would lead to different results if done today, given the economic realities that most people are facing.
But even if increasing the tax would generate more revenue for cancer research, I would still vote no. Here’s why.
Cancer research has been very well funded in the U.S. for about 50 years. We have no idea how much the total dollar amount is because there are so many agencies, organizations and companies doing the funding, but it’s in the big multiple billions, if not trillions, of dollars. What do we have to show for it? Not much, given the investment. So, rather than pouring more money down the black hole of cancer research, let’s spend some effort to get accountability for the research we have already so generously funded.
And, while I have no doubt that tobacco companies are lying about the impact of this initiative, I note that the major sponsor is the American Cancer Society (ACS), which has been lying to the American public about many things about cancer — from what constitutes a cure for cancer to what mammograms do and don’t do — for as long as it’s been in existence. I don’t trust the ACS either So, a pox on both their houses.
Vote No on Prop. 29
© Barbara A. Brenner 2012