May 29, 2012

Stanton A. Glantz, PhD

Prop 29 is "future proofed" against raids inspired by Big Tobacco

Philip Morris and Reynolds American's "third party" spokespeople are talking out of both sides of their mouths on whether or not Prop 29 is "inflexible." 

On one hand, in the No on 29 ballot argument they criticize Prop 29 as "Establish[ing] another flawed auto-pilot spending mandate" that "createsan unaccountable, government bureaucracy"  filled with political appointees" because the Legislature has no control over the use of the funds for the first 15 years.

But then, in response to the CDC's report that most states are not appropriating the CDC's recommended levels of support for tobacco control, the No campaign told the Sacramento Bee, "said the CDC study just proves government can't be trusted with more tobacco tax money."

Of course, the biggest reason that states are not spending money on tobacco control is the fact that the tobacco companies and their allies have lobbied hard against spending money on tobacco control. (You can see examples of this all over the country; check out your favorite state here.)

Most relevant to the Prop 29 debate, there is a specific history of tobacco industry efforts -- which almost succeeded -- to raid funds from California's originally enacted tobacco tax-funded anti-smoking program, Propositionn 99.

A substantial amount of the Prop 99 funds were redirected (illegally) away from the anti-smoking activities funded by the Health Education Account in the earl;y 1990s, to the point that the ant-smoking program was almost destroyed.  (The CMA, which then was allied with the tobacco industry, played a central role in this effort.) It took a huge effort, which included 6 lawsuits, a major advertising campaign and grassroots lobbying led by AHA and ANR, to save the program. 

That effort succeeded, which is why there have been no raids on the Prop 99 Health Education Account since 1994.

This is described in detail in my book Tobacco War (Chapters 10, 12, 13, and 14), which is available here.

Prop 29 is "future proofed" against this kind of raid by prohibiting the legislature from redirecting the funds for 15 years.  While the tobacco companies (who were behind the Prop 99 diversions) have criticized Prop 29 for being "inflexible" on this point, this inflexibility is actually an important strength of 29.

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