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Support for California Tobacco Tax Waning, Poll Finds

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Support for a proposed $1 per-pack tax increase on cigarettes is waning, a new poll finds. The Public Policy Institute of California poll found 53 percent of likely voters say they will vote in favor of the tax hike during the June 5 primary, while 42 percent are opposed to it. In March, 67 percent of voters supported the measure, known as Proposition 29, according to the Associated Press. Since then, the tobacco industry has funded commercials opposing the tax.

California will vote on the measure June 5.

The tobacco industry ads note the tax would raise money for research, but not for treatment. Proponents of the tax say it is expected to raise more than $800 million for research on tobacco-related diseases and prevention programs. They estimate the tax raise will prevent 220,000 young people from starting to smoke, and encourage 100,000 smokers to quit.

By mid-May, Philip Morris USA and RJ Reynolds Tobacco, two of the nation’s biggest tobacco companies, and their affiliates, had spent more than $30 million against the proposal. In addition to criticizing it for not including funds for treatment, they have attacked the initiative for allowing the proceeds of the tax to be used out of state.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said he will donate up to $500,000 of his own money to support Proposition 29. He challenged supporters to match that amount.

The proposal calls for 60 percent of the money raised to be used to support research on the prevention, diagnosis, treatment and potential cures for tobacco-related diseases. An additional 15 percent would be used to build or lease facilities, or to be spent on equipment, while 20 percent would be used for tobacco prevention and cessation programs. The remaining 5 percent would be used for law enforcement programs to reduce illegal sales to minors and smuggling, and administrative costs.

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