Shame on the tobacco industry. Its outrageously deceptive, nearly $50 million campaign appears to have worked. Prop. 29, which would have raised cigarette taxes by $1 a pack to fund cancer research and antismoking efforts, was teetering on the brink of defeat Wednesday. If the result holds, the industry can go back to its business of hooking people on a product that causes cancer and myriad other health problems.
Big Tobacco mastered the art of deception in confusing and misleading voters. Its claim that none of the Prop. 29 revenue would go to “cancer treatment” was a classic half-truth – the money would go to research. Its warning that there was no guarantee that the money would be spent in California was flat-out disingenuous – the intent language and the composition of the panel that would distribute the funds virtually assured otherwise. Its shills rolled out the tired old warning that the higher cigarette tax – still modest by national standards – would lead to rampant bootlegging.
All Californians, smokers and nonsmokers alike, pay the price of smoking’s health consequences – in both their private insurance premiums and the tax dollars they contribute to public medical coverage. Make no mistake: All of us are subsidizing the true cost of smoking. Big Tobacco would have it no other way.