Smoke and mirrors

A $1.00 cigarette tax to fund cancer research benefits all Californians — smokers and nonsmokers. Vote ‘yes.’

Aleli Balaguer/Staff

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When Philip Morris is spending more than $27 million to defeat a ballot measure, that’s a sign you might want to vote the other way.

Proposition 29 is relatively straightforward. If passed, the cigarette tax in California will be increased by $1.00 per pack — and an equivalent tax will be levied on other tobacco products. The estimated $735 million a year in revenue generated would go to fund mainly cancer research but also tobacco education, and research facilities and equipment.

If you listen to radio spots against the proposition, you’d think they’re talking about something totally different. Prop 29 is being spun as an unnecessary evil that creates a huge bureaucracy with no accountability to handle a lot of money, which won’t even be spent in California.

It’s scary how misinformed people can be from these terrifying ads — especially when the proposition is very clear about where the money is going. For instance, 60 percent would go to fund research for cancer and other tobacco-attributed diseases. Only 2 percent would go to the necessary task of administration, collection and distribution.

The state’s current cigarette tax of 87 cents a pack, a rate that is roughly half the national average, ranks 33rd in the country. An additional dollar may seem like a big jump, but that charge would only put California in line with the other states.

By now, it’s a simple fact that cigarettes are addictive and cause cancer and emphysema, among a plethora of other serious health problems. And even if you don’t mind killing yourself, second-hand smoke can also be deadly. Maybe revenue from this tax will help find a cure for lung cancer. Maybe a $1.87 tax per pack will discourage people from smoking in the first place.

R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company is the second-highest donor of the “no” campaign, pouring in more than $11 million. The entire budget of the “Yes” campaign is roughly $11.2 million. Don’t let Big Tobacco buy the election. And if you’re still fretting about the extra buck per pack, keep this in mind: that tax-laden pack is still far cheaper than lung cancer treatment. Do yourself — and society — a favor.

Vote “yes” on Prop 29.