Tobacco Center Faculty Blog

May 24, 2012

Stanton A. Glantz, PhD

Because current cigarette taxes are so low in California, cigarettes are cheaper here than in the US as a whole.

According to The Tax Burden on Tobacco (page 182) in 2010 the average pack of cigarettes in California costs $5.374 compared to$5.554 for the US as a whole.  The low price in California reflects the tobacco companies' success in keeping taxes in California; total taxes only comprise 35.0% of the price of a pack of cigarettes compared to 44.2% for the US as a whole.

Cheap cigarettes promote smoking.

Passing Prop 29 would raise the fraction of the price that is tax to a bit above the national average, 45.2%, assuming Philip Morris and Reynolds pass the tax through to consumers. 

Of course, the price increase might be more than the $1 tax increase because the cigarette companies often increase the wholesale price at the same time taxes go up so the companies can maintain or increase revenues despite declining consumption.  That allows the companies to get the cash while smokers blame the government.

Pretty clever.

May 24, 2012

Stanton A. Glantz, PhD

Once upon a time, right after the voters saw through essentially the same campaign that Philip Morris and Reynolds ran in 1988 and passed Prop 99,  California had the largest most aggressive tobacco control program in the country.

According to a report in the MMWR released today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, California is in the bottom half of states for tobacco control funding, spending only 17% of of what CDC recommends for a state its size, making it 26th in terms of investment in tobacco control.  (That is why, absent 29 passing, smoking will start increasing in California over the next few years.)

May 23, 2012

Stanton A. Glantz, PhD

The widely-respected nonpartisan Public Policy Policy Institute of California just released a poll showing that Prop 29 is winning with 53 percent of voters planning to cote yes compared to 42 percent "no."  While this is about a 10 point drop in the yes vote compared to where things were before Philip Morris and Reynolds dumped $40 million into California trying to bury the campaign, the fact that 29 is still ahead shows that most of the people are still not buying the lies.

In addition, while the Yes campaign has been on the air with its ads, it has had nowhere near the money that the tobacco companies have dumped into the campaign.  Things are going to get a little more balanced in light of the big contribution the American Cancer Society just made, which, combined with other donations, has allowed the Yes side to get its media up around the state.

The San Jose Mercury News  reported a sneaky trick that the cigarette companies used to try and make it look like somebody other than them was supporting the No campaign:

May 22, 2012

Stanton A. Glantz, PhD

Today the American Cancer Society really put its money where its mouth is and made two contributions totaling $2.5 million to the Yes on 29 campaign ($2,420,000 from ACS and $80,000 from the ACS Cancer Action Network).  Laurene Powell Jobs (wife of Steve Jobs) also gave $25,000.

According to MapLight, this brings the total money to the Yes campaign to $11.1 million.  (The amount for the actual election is a couple million less, because this amount includes the money spent to qualify the initiative.)

Needless to say Big Tobacco is spending more.  Of the $40.7 million "donated" so far to the No on 29 campaign, 97% comes directly from tobacco companies. MapLight reports $27.3 million from Altra (Philip Morris and other tobacco holdings), $12.1 million from Reynolds American (RJR and other tobacco holdings)and $40,000 from the International Cigar and Pipe Retailers Assn.

This makes the tobacco companies' campaign bigger than any national super-PAC, except Mitt Romney's.  If this was a national campaign Big tobacco would have spent about $315 million by now.

May 19, 2012

Stanton A. Glantz, PhD

The tobacco companies are working assiduously to make it look like there is a genuine grassroots opposition to California Proposition 29.  We have over 802 million pages of previously secret tobacco industry documents in the UCSF Legacy Tobacco Documents Library.  My colleague Kate Swartz did quick searches on many of the organizations whose names appear on No on 29 materials.  While we did not have time to screen all these documents but it is clear that there are thousands of documents linking these groups (often financially) to Big Tobacco.   They are hardly independent voices.

By the way, just because we did not find documents for some of the organizations does not mean that there are no financial or other ties.  The most recent of the industry documents are several years old.  In addition, we only searched on the organization names without doing more sophisticated digging.

Click on the links to peruse the documents and see what you think.

Stars indicate appearance of organization in Prop 29 Mailers (mailer specified)