Category Archives for "Headline"

Nov 14

California undermines Big Tobacco, raising the cigarette tax by $2 in the state

Headline , Tobacco

California voters handed Big Tobacco a resounding defeat Tuesday when they passed Proposition 56 to raise the cigarette tax by US$2 a pack (with increases in e-cigarettes and other tobacco products). This is the first increase in cigarette taxes in California in 18 years.

The money will fund health care for poor people and reinvigorate California’s tobacco control program.

Economists project that the effect of the price increase alone will cut smoking prevalence from today’s 9.4 percent to 7.1 percent in 2020; the fact that Prop 56 quadruples the funding for the state’s aggressive tobacco control program will make that effect even bigger.

The drop in smoking due to Prop 56 is so large that it will save California families, taxpayers and businesses $1 billion a year in health costs starting next year.

It will also cost Big Tobacco $250 million a year in lost sales, which is why they fought it so hard.

Indeed, by pushing smoking down to such a low level, the behavior may simply collapse, making California the first place to reach former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop’s vision of a smoke-free society.

Proof of principle: We can end the tobacco epidemic

Such an accomplishment will demonstrate that we can, indeed, get rid of tobacco as a public health problem without adopting the industry’s phony “harm reduction” strategies. We don’t need their e-cigarettes, which are presented as a healthy alternative to cigarettes, when, in fact, they extend and protect the cigarette market by attracting youth and young adults and deterring quitting for most, but not all, adult smokers. It also shows that we don’t need new gimmicks like Philip Morris’ “heat not burn” products that are being test-marketed.

Just as the model of increasing tobacco taxes to fund tobacco control programs spread when California voters passed Proposition 99 in 1988, Prop 56 will be a model for the rest of the U.S. and the world.

A hard-fought victory

The 63 percent “yes” vote was hard-fought. Big Tobacco blocked 34 attempts in the Legislature and defeated two previous ballot initiatives to raise the tax, one in 2006 and another in 2012. Tobacco giants Philip Morris, RJ Reynolds and a few other tobacco interests spent $71 million on a disingenuous campaign that urged a “no” vote in part because Prop 56 didn’t put enough money into fighting smoking.

Voters saw through these claims in part because, after a rocky start, tax proponents took on and discredited Big Tobacco’s claims in an adequately funded campaign that raised $36 million to defend the tax.

Comic Kathy Griffin even had to create her own YouTube video to let people know that the “white lady gardening” urging a “no” vote was really Big Tobacco.

While the tobacco companies spent twice as much as the health groups, health spent enough to get the truth out.

Lesson learned: It costs ‘enough’ to beat Big Tobacco

Big Tobacco killed similar tax proposals in Colorado ($1.75 a pack; 46 percent yes) and North Dakota (44 cents; 45 percent) by outspending proponents by a factor of six.

The lesson: You don’t have to spend as much as the tobacco industry, but you need enough money to get your message out.

There were also two bizarre competing initiatives in Missouri – the state with the lowest tobacco tax – supported by tobacco interests, one by RJ Reynolds to preempt meaningful increases that funded tobacco control programs and hit small producers and another from the Missouri Petroleum Association and the Convenience Stores Association to undo the first one.

Health groups opposed both, and voters wisely defeated them, with 63 percent and 55 percent voting “no.”

Just as progress is being made in one smoking problem, another is emerging: commercialized marijuana.

A combination of public concern about the inequities created by the failed war on drugs and well-financed campaigns (totaling $41 million for recreational and $8 million for medical versus opponents’ $14 million and $3 million) led to passage of recreational marijuana in three – and maybe four – states on Tuesday.

California (56 percent yes), Maine (50.36, still too close to call), Massachusetts (54 percent) and Nevada (54 percent) all legalized recreational marijuana. Arkansas, Florida, Montana and North Dakota passed more limited medical marijuana.

At the same time legalization reduces the criminal justice problem created by the war on drugs, it is creating a public health problem. The marijuana initiatives prioritize business over public health by codifying alcohol policies designed to promote business rather than tobacco control policies designed to minimize demand.

Indeed, the tobacco industry seriously considered getting into the marijuana business in the 1960s and 1970s and could do it in a second. They have the technology to design products to maximize use and the marketing prowess to maximize profits. And if they don’t do it, other corporate players will soon be doing the same thing. Indeed, the growth potential for the new marijuana business explains much of the money supporting these initiatives.

As tobacco use continues to fall and marijuana use increases, the evidence that marijuana causes cancer, heart disease and other problems will grow.

At some point, as the public realizes that the right way to legalize marijuana would be to do so with marijuana tax-funded demand reduction programs as we now do with tobacco, we can expect more battles with the new rich marijuana industry like Proposition 56.

Source: SALON

Nov 14

Secondhand tobacco smoke exposure a risk factor for coronary atherosclerosis

Headline , Tobacco

NEW ORLEANS — A new study presented at the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions strengthens the association between the extent of coronary atherosclerosis and the level of secondhand smoke exposure.

Researchers issued a questionnaire to 268 never-smokers aged 40 to 80 years to assess risk factors and extent of lifetime secondhand tobacco smoke exposure, providing a total secondhand tobacco smoke score.

To determine ordinal coronary artery calcium scores, low-dose non-gated CT scans were used, followed by CT angiography.

Harvey Hecht, MD, from the division of cardiology at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, presented the findings, which were simultaneously published in JACC: Cardiovascular Imaging.

“The extent and importance of secondhand tobacco smoke [exposure] as a major global health issue cannot be overestimated,” Hecht and colleagues wrote in JACC: Cardiovascular Imaging. “Increasing awareness of the heavy toll exacted by secondhand tobacco smoke exposure, particularly [CV], has resulted in more intensive investigation of the accompanying atherosclerosis, particularly that detectable in early stages by noninvasive modalities.”

Hecht and colleagues analyzed the prevalence, extent and plaque characteristics of atherosclerosis to determine the independent contribution of secondhand tobacco smoke exposure after adjustment for known risk factors.

Coronary atherosclerosis was observed in 48% of patients, and was more prevalent in those with low to moderate secondhand tobacco smoke exposure (48%) and high exposure (69%) compared with minimal exposure (25%; P < .0001).

Compared minimal secondhand tobacco smoke exposure, the odds of developing atherosclerosis were higher among those with low to moderate exposure (OR = 2.1; 95% CI, 1-4.4) and high exposure (OR = 3.5; 95% CI, 1.4-8.5). The researchers did not find a significant relationship between atherosclerosis and diabetes (P = .56), hyperlipidemia (P = .11), hypertension (P = .65) or renal disease (P = .24).

As exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke exposure increased, any plaque or stenosis in a major vessel was more prevalent (minimal exposure, 14%; low to moderate exposure, 41%; high exposure, 45%; P = .0013) as were the odds of five or more involved segments (minimal exposure, 0%; low to moderate exposure, 39%; high exposure, 61%; P = .0001), Hecht and colleagues reported. The researchers noted that the effect of secondhand tobacco smoke exposure was more pronounced in those with calcification or partial calcification compared with no calcification.

“Although the study sample size is modest; the initial insights are astounding,” Khurram Nasir, MD, MPH, from Baptist Health South Florida, Florida International University and the Johns Hopkins Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Heart Disease, and Jaideep Patel, MD, from the Johns Hopkins Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Heart Disease and Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center, Richmond, wrote in a related editorial published in JACC: Cardiovascular Imaging. “The results of this study demonstrated a powerful graded linear relationship between the severity of secondhand tobacco smoke exposure and the presence and severity of coronary artery plaque that overcomes any lingering doubt about the deleterious impact of secondhand tobacco smoke.”

According to Nasir and Patel, the results of this trial provide an opportunity to publicly discuss the potentially fatal coronary effects of secondhand tobacco smoke exposure, provide policy makers with evidence to work toward implementing smoke-free laws, promote discussion amongst stakeholders to incorporate universal secondhand tobacco smoke exposure screenings in primary care practice, and can provide incentive to assess the link between atherosclerotic disease and secondhand smoke in population-based studies. – by Dave Quaile

Source: Healio

 

Nov 14

LIVE WELL: The Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline encourages tobacco users to take the Great American Smokeout Challenge

Headline , Tobacco

Tobacco users are encouraged to participate in the Great American Smokeout (GASO) challenge Thursday and experience the benefits of a tobacco-free lifestyle, if only for a day. GASO is an annual event that supports a day-long cessation effort, which can be the first step toward a healthier life.

GASO is the perfect time to learn more about the Helpline and get tips and tools that can help you quit tobacco your way. Many people plan a quit date around the New Year, and this is a great time to try out a mini-quit or just think about beginning your tobacco-free journey. The Helpline offers nonjudgmental support to anyone thinking about quitting, whether it’s for one day during GASO or if you’re ready to quit for good.

“I called the helpline, and they sent me patches,” said Marilyn, an Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline user from Muskogee. “It’s hard. Trust me. But if you really want to quit, you can do it no matter what!

Keep your faith, stand your ground and don’t give in. After quitting, my tastes buds have changed, my breathing is better, and my sense of smell is a lot stronger than before. Just amazing how your body changes once you stop smoking.”

According to the American Cancer Society, after just 20 minutes of being tobacco free, blood pressure decreases and pulse rates drop. Within 24 hours of quitting, the chance of a heart attack decreases. Within one year of quitting, the risk of coronary heart disease is lowered to half that of a tobacco user. Plus, annual savings could total nearly $2,700 by not purchasing tobacco products.

For many tobacco users, quitting – even for just a day – can feel impossible. But by quitting for an hour here and there, they can build up endurance. As hours, days and even weeks add up, quitting goes from feeling impossible to something quite possible.

The Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline, funded by the Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust, or TSET, provides FREE services to help tobacco users quit their own way.

These services include free text and email support, phone and web coaching, patches, gum, lozenges and more for registered participants. Registrants can talk to personal Quit Coaches about their individual needs, choose from a variety of services and get started on the path toward a tobacco-free life.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution to quitting tobacco. However, the Helpline’s evaluation results show that those who work with a Quit Coach and use the full range of services available have the best chance of quitting. The Helpline supports tobacco users even if they’re just thinking about quitting.

To celebrate GASO locally, University Health Services at OSU and the Payne County TSET Healthy Living Program have partnered to put on the third annual Gobble Wobble which will take place Friday.

This event includes a mile walk that will begin at 12:10 and end at approximately 12:50. The walk starts and stops on the south side of the Classroom Building and a free cold turkey lunch will be provided to the first 100 participants.

You can register for free here: https://uhs.okstate.edu/content/GWWregForm or by calling the University Health Services Health Education office at 405-744-4212.

To learn more about the services offered by the Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline and to speak with professional Quit Coaches, call 1-800-QUIT NOW (1-800-784-8669) or visit OKhelpline.com.

Connect with the Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline through social media by liking the Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline on Facebook or following @OKhelpline on Twitter and Instagram. Find more quitting tips at http://okhelpline.com/start-small-finish-big/.

Katelyn McAdams is a TSET Healthy Living Program Specialist.

Source: Stillwater News Press

 

Nov 14

Merced smokers mixed on new tobacco tax

Headline , Tobacco

Starting in January, the cheapest pack of cigarettes at Cigarettes and Cigars on G Street in Merced will be in the $5 range, according to an employee, Kirsten Weston. Currently the cheapest pack of cigarettes is $3.77, she said, and the most expensive is around $8, soon to be $10.

The majority of California voters agreed with the new parameters on increasing the tobacco tax, voting “yes” on Proposition 56 this election cycle. According to Ballotpedia, the measure won by almost 63 percent.

The tax increase will add $2 to cigarette packs and other tobacco products, going from 87 cents to $2.87. About $1 billion to $1.4 billion is estimated in tax revenue, which will mostly go toward health care funding for low-income Californians. The rest of the revenue, 13 percent, will go toward smoking prevention.

Although Weston said she voted “no” on the proposition, she expected it to pass because a lot of younger voters don’t support smoking tobacco. Smokers already pay a lot of money for cigarettes, she said, and doesn’t find the proposition fair to them.

“It’s pretty much the government taxing poor people,” Weston said. “It gets expensive and this is a real addiction.”

Weston, 22, said people who come into Cigarettes and Cigars barely are able to afford the $4 to $5 packs, and they probably won’t be able to swing adding $2 to that. Most people coming through the shop are lower-income individuals, she said.

“This is something people do and you can tax people in other ways, I feel like,” she said.

A 23-year-old Merced resident, Peter Jhrar, bought a pack of Camel cigarettes on Saturday from Cigarettes and Cigars, and said although he voted “no” on Proposition 56, he hopes the price increase will help him quit smoking.

“Ten dollars a pack is a lot in its own.” he said. “I eventually want to quit and this might help me.”

Jhrar said a lot of people smoke because they’re “hooked,” and if people want to continue smoking, they’re going to find a way to do so.

“It’s all about willpower,” he said.

Golden Valley Health Center in Merced held a rally weeks before the election supporting the proposition, because revenue will go toward health care such as Medi-Cal. Advocates said for places such as Merced, which has the second-highest population rate on Medi-Cal in the state, passing the legislation would be beneficial to the community.

Dr. Eduardo Villarama, regional medical director for Golden Valley, said he was pleased the tobacco increase passed because he knows how damaging tobacco is for the body and how it is responsible for a lot of preventable illnesses.

Tobacco intake can make illnesses such as lung cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure and respiratory problems worse, Villarama said. Sinus and ear infections are more common in children who are exposed to secondhand smoke, he said.

“The money added to the pool can create more services for patients,” Villarama said. “We need to focus on preventative measures. It’s a really big challenge to quit smoking.”

Making tobacco products more expensive can add another barrier that smokers have to consider, Villarama said, hopefully leading them to a more healthier lifestyle.

“Overall it’s really about tobacco health-related illnesses,” he said.

When it comes to the business side, Mike Siegel, owner of Cigar Monkey on Canal Street in Merced, said he expects to see a drop in business until people get used to the tobacco increase. He predicted 20 percent of premium tobacco shops in the state will disappear.

“A lot of premium tobacco shop customers will turn to the internet for products,” Siegel said. “People voted in another bad law.”

Something most people don’t think about, Weston said, is how the tobacco increase can affect jobs. If her employer isn’t making enough to pay her, she said, she could potentially lose her job. A lot of customers have told her the tobacco increase may be the reason they have to quit smoking, Weston said.

“A significant amount of customers come in every day,” Weston said. “Eight out of 10 are buying cigarettes.”

Source: Merced Sun-Star

 

Nov 13

Proposition 56, a $2-per-pack boost to tobacco taxes, is approved by voters

Headline , Tobacco

After voters twice turned back attempts to raise the state’s tobacco tax over the last decade, California looks poised to pass Proposition 56, which would increase the cigarette tax by $2 per pack.

Proposition 56 leads 62.4% to 37.6% in late returns, according to the secretary of state’s office.

“Smoking is the number one cause of avoidable death in the state of California,” said Democratic donor Tom Steyer, who was the co-chairman of the Proposition 56 campaign. “We had a broader coalition to support the idea of pushing back against the tobacco companies and raising the cigarette tax than ever before. We believe that that kind of broad coalition works against organized and concentrated economic interests when we stick together and when we all turn out and vote.”

The nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office estimates that Proposition 56 could raise at least $1.3 billion a year, with most of the money going toward the state’s Medi-Cal health care program for low-income residents.

The campaign was one of the most expensive in the state this year, with tobacco companies pouring in more than $70 million to fight the tax hike. In television advertisements, the companies criticized the measure as a payoff to the health care industry, which financed much of the Yes on 56 campaign.

But in contrast to failed efforts to raise the tobacco tax in 2006 and 2012, proponents of the tax hike were able to raise significantly more funds to promote Proposition 56.

Currently, California’s cigarette tax is $0.87 per pack, which ranks 37th in the country, according to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, and it hasn’t been raised in almost 20 years. Along with cigarettes, other tobacco products including smokeless tobacco and cigars will see a corresponding tax increase. And for the first time, the growing e-cigarette industry will need to pay tobacco taxes.

Source: LA Times

 

Nov 12

Teens with asthma almost twice as likely to smoke as their healthy counterparts

Headline , Science , Smoking

Curiosity is a driving factor in why most kids start smoking, and the same is true for kids with asthma. A new study found adolescents with asthma were twice as likely to smoke as kids without asthma. And they continue to smoke well into their teen years, even though they know smoking is particularly bad for their lungs.

“The study found 22 percent of the kids with asthma smoked, while only 12 percent of kids without asthma smoked,” said allergist Bradley Chipps, MD, ACAAI Fellow, and asthma expert. “The researchers discovered that curiosity about cigarette smoking is the main reason why kids with asthma start smoking. They then develop a greater dependence (22 percent) to nicotine compared to kids the same age who don’t have asthma (12 percent).” Dr. Chipps was not involved with the study.

The study examined more than 3,300 questionnaires from adolescents between 13-19 years of age. Two groups were formed — those with asthma and those without. The data from the questionnaires revealed teens with asthma who began smoking before 11 years of age continue smoking because they believe the habit lessens their anxiety and stress.

According to the study authors, the adolescents surveyed indicated they knew smoking was addictive, but often smoked when waking up in the morning or when they were sick. “Despite their knowledge that smoking is bad for their health, the adolescents with asthma didn’t consider smoking to be a problem,” said Dr. Chipps.

ACAAI says that tobacco smoke — including secondhand smoke — is one of the most common asthma triggers, and is unhealthy for everyone. “Kids with asthma already have trouble breathing,” says Gailen Marshall, MD, PhD, ACAAI Fellow. Dr. Marshall was also not involved with the study, but will be speaking at the meeting on the topic of managing asthma through lifestyle changes such as stopping smoking. “If you have asthma, it’s important that you avoid exposure to cigarette smoke of any kind. Smoking makes breathing much harder for kids with asthma.”

See the full story at Smoking News — ScienceDaily

Nov 11

Smokers and shops prepare for new tobacco tax after passage of Prop. 56

Headline

For the first time, Californians who vape will be subject to tobacco taxes, with the passage of Prop. 56.

While traditional cigarette smokers will go from paying a tax of 87 cents per pack to $2.87 starting April 1, an equivalent taxation structure for e-cigarettes and vaping liquids still must be calculated.

Public health advocates cheered the passage as a way to reduce tobacco usage, while the vaping industry said the tax could deter smokers from using e-cigs as a tool to quit. The vote came five months after California raised the smoking and vaping age from 18 to 21.

“California is making massive strides just in a few months,” said Ravi Choudhuri, advocacy manager for the American Lung Association’s Orange County division. “We were always known as the forefront of anti-tobacco states, and now we’re back on that track.”

For every 10 percent increase in the price of cigarettes, smoking goes down 4 percent, according to a 2014 report on smoking by the U.S. surgeon general. State Board of Equalization spokesman Jonathan Mendick said Wednesday that the board will inform the public of how the tax will apply to e-cigarettes on its website in the coming months.

“It’s still pretty vague unfortunately as far as the actual tax,” said Alea Jasso, co-owner of South County Vapors in Tustin. “I guess now leaders from the e-cig industry and liquid manufacturers will have to sit down with the BOE and try to find a fair taxation that won’t put shops out of business.”

Jasso said vaping liquids, or e-juice, come in bottles ranging from 15 ml to 200 ml, with a typical 30 to 60 ml bottle costing $18 to $30. She said she thinks the tax will need to be based on milliliters rather than set as a flat rate.

The $2 a pack increase on traditional cigarettes could also prompt current smokers to switch to vaping, provided the tax isn’t too high, she said.

“If they look to vaping as their source to try to quit, we hope it’s affordable enough for them to be able to do that,” she said.

This month, the journal Health & Place published research showing that Orange County middle school students whose schools were within a quarter-mile of a vaping shop were about twice as likely to use e-cigarettes than those whose schools were not close by.

“The visibility of the stores and the novelty may be more attractive to younger students who are still in that developmental stage where they’re more likely to experiment with substances,” said lead researcher Georgiana Bostean, who teaches sociology and environmental science at Chapman University. “The fact that there are more vape stores might make them think vaping is more socially acceptable than smoking. It might increase actual access because they’re in walking distance of the school.”

Bostean said she expects the higher price of e-cigarettes to drive down usage, which has been increasing among teens.

“There’s a huge bulk of evidence on tobacco taxes that shows taxation is one of the most effective ways to reduce smoking across the board, and also in adolescents,” she said. “There’s no reason to believe that would be different for e-cigarettes.”

 

Source: The Orange County Register

Nov 11

‘Tobacco 21’ gets first-round approval by St. Louis Board of Aldermen

Headline

Updated with first-round board approval Nov. 10 – Measures boosting the age to buy tobacco products in the city of St. Louis sailed out of the Health and Human Services committee on Thursday (Nov. 3).

The bills, sponsored by Alderman Dionne Flowers, D-2nd Ward, would bring the city in line with St. Louis County by making it illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to buy tobacco products. The new requirement applies to both traditional tobacco products like cigarettes, and newer ones like electronic cigarettes. The vote was unanimous.

Flowers says the age increase would help to break the social circle of access that enables underage people to smoke.

“It’s easier for someone at 16, 17 to get someone that’s 18 or 19 to buy them a cigarette whereas we think if they’re 21, the circle isn’t as easy,” said Flowers

Members of the board shared their personal experiences with smoking and smoking-related cancers in support. But some said the ordinance was just feel-good legislation.

Alderman Marlene E. Davis, D-19th Ward, said, though she would probably vote for the bills, she questioned their efficacy.

“We know that cancer is prevalent, especially lung cancer, but at the end of the day, this will not prevent one case,” said Davis.

Alderman Shane Cohn, D-25th Ward, said that while he supports efforts to reduce smoking, the bills insult 18 year olds who are legal adults.

“I don’t think that raising the age is the appropriate answer. If we’re going to – why don’t we raise the age to vote, why don’t we raise the age to serve in military service? You know if we’re going to treat kids like morons, they’re going to turn out to be morons,” said Cohn.

Alderman Sharon Tyus, D-1st Ward, says the limitations are a “great trade” if they are able to save lives.

“It’s inconvenient and they may have to send their friend to get it or whatever, but whatever inconvenience I can do, there are some things we should make inconvenient,” said Tyus.

St. Louis County already voted to raise the age for tobacco to 21 in September.

Karen Englert, the government relations director for the American Heart Association, is leading the so-called “Tobacco 21” effort in Missouri. Boosting the purchasing age from 18 to 21 won’t stop teenagers from getting tobacco products, she said, but it makes it a lot harder.

“We eliminate the social source,” she said. “It’s pretty rare that you’ll see a 21 year old spending a lot of time with a 13 year old.”

AJ Moll, the executive director of Smoke Free Missouri, called “Tobacco 21” a solution in search of a problem. Raising the purchasing age on vapor products, he said, makes it that much harder for people who started smoking young to quit.

“Vapor products are shown to help people quit smoking,” he said. “Youths aren’t initiating with them, there’s no gateway, and the majority of people that did experiment underage don’t even use nicotine in the products.”

Moll’s group made the same argument in St. Louis County, where the measure passed in September. He said he expects approval in the city as well.

 

Source: St. Louis Public Radio

Nov 11

Jackson County, Mo. to Increase Tobacco Purchase Age

Headline

It wasn’t a ballot issue on Tuesday, but the minimum age to purchase tobacco products and e-cigarettes will be going up in Jackson County, Mo.

On Monday, the county’s legislature unanimously approved the increase, which will affect the unincorporated areas of the county when it goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2017. The increase will bring the county in line with increases passed by two its largest cities, Kansas City and Independence, and a growing movement in the Kansas City metropolitan area to increase the minimum age to purchase tobacco to 21-years-old.

Jackson County is the second most populous in Missouri with a 2015 population estimate of 687,623 people, though only about 22,000 of those people live in the county’s unincorporated areas.

 

Source: Halfwheel

Nov 11

California hikes tobacco taxes, to start taxing e-cigarettes

Headline

SAN DIEGO (AP) — California voters soundly approved a ballot measure Tuesday to raise tobacco taxes $2 a pack and start taxing electronic cigarettes, marking what supporters called a victory for public health that overcame a heavily financed fight by tobacco companies.

The measure passed by a margin of 63 percent to 37 percent with more than 5.6 million votes counted.

Opponents, led by tobacco companies, poured more than $71 million into efforts to defeat Proposition 56, compared to more than $34 million raised by supporters of the initiative that included billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer.

“This historic measure will reduce teen smoking, fund the health care system, and save lives,” Steyer said in a statement. “Californians rejected the tobacco industry’s lies and acted to protect the health of our kids.”

The measure will add $2 to the current 87-cents-a-pack state tax on cigarettes. California also joins only about a half dozen states in taxing e-cigarettes, including vapor products. Proponents of taxing such products hoped approval would prompt more states to follow the trendsetting California.

Anti-smoking advocates said the vapor liquids that come in candy flavors aim to hook a new generation on nicotine, while the vaping industry argued its products are a safer alternative to smoking tobacco and expressed concern that taxing them at the same rate as tobacco products could threaten them as a potentially useful tool to help smokers quit.

E-cigarettes heat liquid nicotine into a vapor, delivering the chemical that smokers crave without the harmful by-products generated from burning tobacco. Some say e-cigarettes are a potentially useful tool to help smokers — a benefit that could be threatened if the products are taxed.

California has not raised its tobacco taxes since 1998.

Besides Steyer, Proposition 56 drew support from medical groups, educators and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who also supported a failed attempt to raise tobacco taxes in 2012. It was narrowly defeated amid big spending by tobacco interests.

California’s legislative analyst and the state’s finance director said Proposition 56 could raise $1 billion to $1.4 billion in state revenue by the 2017-2018 year, with potentially lower annual revenues over time.

Tobacco companies said the money will benefit insurance companies and hospital corporations. The industry was accused of misleading voters with that campaign because much of the money, in fact, will go to California’s Medi-Cal, the state-run program that pays insurance providers and hospitals for low-income residents. The tax revenue would also fund anti-smoking campaigns and medical research.

“Since day one, we ran our campaign on the issues and substance of the measure, and urged voters to evaluate the content, intent and flaws of Prop. 56,” Beth Miller, spokeswoman for the “No on 56” campaign, said in a statement. “While we believe Proposition 56 is bad public policy, the voters have spoken and we respect their decision.”

Both California and Hawaii recently increased the legal age to 21 to purchase either tobacco or e-cigarettes.

 

Source: East Bay Times