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Discussion on the California Cancer Research Act

Proposition 29, the California Cancer Research Act, will appear on the June 5, 2012 ballot.  The Act proposes a $1.00 additional tax to be applied to every pack of cigarettes purchased in the state of California, which will raise nearly $735 million per year to fund cancer research and tobacco prevention programs.  Estimates show these programs will save 104,000 lives and stop 228,000 kids from smoking annually.  A recent panel in Los Angeles presented arguments on both sides.

Dr. Franklin Pratt, Medical Director for the American Heart Association, and Jim Lott, Executive Vice President of the Hospital Association of Southern California, offered the case in support of the proposition.  Key points included:

  • Approximately 1,200 people in California die everyday from the effects of smoking
  • One in 5 overall deaths are related to effects of cigarette smoking
  • The increased price will provide individuals with financial incentives to avoid starting to smoke when all evidence presents how difficult it is to stop
  • Consumers pay a hidden tax for uninsured smokers who use the health care system, since 21 cents of every dollar charged to consumers by commercial plans is being shifted to pay for care to the uninsured.  This prevents funds from being spent on personal health care and other basic necessities.
  • Smokers should incur the costs of health care related to their behavioral choices.  Statistics show that smokers visit primary care doctors 27% more and are hospitalized 18% more than non-smokers.

Dr. Marcy Zwelling, a board-certified physician and Francis Oney, Account Executive for Meridian Pacific, Inc., presented the opposing view, including:

  • California does not need another tax binding the citizens to more bureaucracy
  • An additional $1.00 tax will not change consumer habits in purchasing cigarettes, since the government cannot change people’s behavior
  • Small businesses would lose nearly $1 billion dollars each year due to loss in sales. This point caused some confusion as it countered the earlier statement regarding the tax having no effect on purchasing habits.

Voters will decide this issue on the June ballot.

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