Another “NO ON PROP 29” leaflet arrived this week in my mail. It was my second. Both are attractive with bright colors and lots of white space. Their pitch includes fretting that Proposition 29 conceals bad things in “fine print.” One leaflet mentions “4,515 words of fine print.”
So I checked my Official Voter Information Guide. In it I found Proposition 29 in full, and an analysis of it by the legislative analyst. Neither was in fine print.
In fact, they were in larger print than the fine print on the back of the “NO ON PROP 29” flier. That fine print identified its sponsors: “Major funding by Philip Morris USA and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., with a coalition of taxpayers, small businesses, law enforcement and labor.”
I bet Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds paid most of the cost.
Prop. 29 would raise the tax on a pack of cigarettes by $1. If it passes, I expect Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds will sell noticeably fewer cigarettes in California.
The sponsors of Prop. 29 hope that’s true. They are the American Cancer Society, American Heart Association and American Lung Association. Their argument in the voter guide says, “Prop. 29 helps smokers quit and discourages kids from smoking in the first place.”
We Californians will vote on Prop. 29 on June 5. If we approve it, the price of a pack of cigarettes will increase $1. The price of other tobacco products will increase by comparable amounts. The majority of the money would go toward researching ways to prevent and cure tobacco-related diseases.
This isn’t a perfect proposition. I’m not in love with it. I worry that raising the price $1 per pack may make selling black-market cigarettes look profitable to organized crime. But on the other hand, a buck-per-pack increase could be enough to keep some young would-be smokers from starting.
So despite my doubts, I think I’ll vote “yes” on Prop. 29. This tax will be paid only by the people who buy tobacco products. Also, I’m in favor of doing anything we can to weaken big tobacco companies.
In March, the American Cancer Society announced that tobacco use last year killed nearly 6 million people worldwide. Tobacco company executives must know they are selling products that kill people. Do they just think, “It’s legal, it’s profitable, why not?”
So when we read the “No on 29” ads and see them on TV, I hope we remember that tobacco companies are past masters at advertising and pushers of an addictive substance that kills people.
Reach Phil Dirkx at firstname.lastname@example.org or 238-2372.