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Fight over cigarette tax comes to Sonoma County


Facing a statewide advertising barrage aimed at defeating Prop. 29, local supporters of the cigarette tax initiative are waging their own voter information blitz through phone banks aimed at reaching voters directly.

With only three days left before Tuesday’s election, the final skirmishes over the initiative are playing out all over the state, including Sonoma County, where the new county health officer made a public appeal to voters.

Lynn Silver Chalfin, a former assistant health commissioner for New York City, said voter approval of Prop. 29 would save lives by reducing the number of people who smoke or become addicted to smoking.

“Smoking is like an earthquake that hits Sonoma County every year,” she said, adding that smoking is linked to 500 deaths each year in Sonoma County caused by cancer, heart and lung disease.

For their part, opponents say the initiative, while well-meaning, is flawed and creates a huge spending program with no oversight by the governor or Legislature.

“We all support cancer research, but at a time when we have a $16 billion budget deficit and can’t even fund schools, the last thing this state needs is another unaccountable spending program,” said Joel Fox, president of the Los-Angeles based Small Business Action Committee.

Fox, whose group is part of the statewide coalition opposing Prop. 29, said the measure allows “tax dollars to be spent creating jobs in other states” and creates large, uncontrolled bureaucracy.

Supporters call such claims misleading and political scare tactics.

According to the state voter information guide, Prop. 29 would increase the tax on a pack of cigarettes by $1, raising the total cigarette tax in California to $1.87.

It would bring in $735 million next year, which would be directed to tobacco research and prevention and cessation programs.

Since March, the ranks of Prop. 29 supporters, though still a majority among likely voters, have decreased by 14 percentage points to 53 percent, according to a recent study by the Public Policy Institute of California.

The No on 29 campaign has raised about $45 million to defeat the measure, with most of it coming from two major tobacco companies, Philip Morris USA and RJ Reynolds Company.

Pam Granger, the North Coast tobacco programs manager for the American Lung Association, said she’ll spend the weekend talking with voters on the phone in an effort to counter the TV advertising barrage funded by the opposition.

Silver Chalfin, the Sonoma County health officer, said that raising the cost of cigarettes will result in fewer young people buying them, because they are “sensitive to the price of cigarettes.” She said Prop. 29, which raises the price of cigarettes by 20 percent, would result in a 13.7 percent decrease in young people smoking.

“It’s estimated it would stop 228,000 California kids from smoking,” she said, adding that many become addicted to smoking in their younger years.

Michael Carneggie, the owner of Perry’s Delicatessen on Mendocino Avenue in front of Santa Rosa High School, said he’s all for getting people to quit smoking, but he’s not sure a tax increase would make a difference.

Carneggie said most of the people who come into his deli to buy cigarettes are 18-year-old high school students. If Prop. 29 passes, the price of a pack of cigarettes will increase to just under $7, he said.

“I think somehow, someway they’ll figure out how to get the money,” he said.

11 Responses to “Fight over cigarette tax comes to Sonoma County”

  1. Follower says:

    @Chuck G

    I’m no “quitter”!

    I’ll survive any cancer these cigarettes have to offer or die trying!

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  2. Chuck G says:

    Listen folks: Here’s an idea, just quit smoking and leave the taxation of tobacco,smuggling cigarettes from the back doors of Casino’s or whatever comes to mind.

    Then sit back and enjoy life and how good you feel to be a former smoker. Your choice.

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  3. GAJ says:

    Here’s Willie Brown’s take on it from today’s column:

    “Here’s a primary prediction: Despite being seriously outspent by big tobacco, the Proposition 29 people get a last-minute infusion of campaign cash and squeak out a win for their measure tacking another $1-per-pack tax onto cigarettes.

    No sooner does the new tax go into effect, my street contacts tell me, than Indian tribes will open tobacco shops at their casinos, where buyers can escape state taxes and buy cigarettes on the cheap.

    Just as quickly, smugglers will start rolling in truckloads of smokes from Nevada, Arizona and Oregon, as street dealers realize there is more money to be made selling hot cigarettes than there is selling dope.”

    Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2012/06/02/BAG01OQV5P.DTL#ixzz1wlfwBWGx

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  4. Jim says:

    Amazing. The “Drs” wife CHOOSES, through her own free will, to consume a LEGAL product, and dies from it (allegedly) and thus, the government should STEAL another $1 per pack from those who choose to take part in the same activity. How does that make any sense?

    OK, my overweight slob friend eats McD’s, drinks alcohol, never exercises and watches too much TV. ALL legal products, ALL of which will lead to his death. So lets pass Prop 30, 31, 32, 33 for a tax on McD’s, alcohol, forced gym memberships and TV.

    Giving the government more money isn’t the answer to ANY problem. The beauty of the US is everyone (theoretically) has free will to make choices in their lives.

    With the number of deaths at the hands of drunks driving and liver disease, why isn’t there EVER a push to add a $1-3 per 6-pack of beer tax??

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  5. My wife dad died of lung cancer due to smoking, so I’m voting yes.

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  6. J.R. Wirth says:

    “Smoking is like an earthquake that hits Sonoma County every year,” she said.

    Wow, that’s an ignorant statement. Why not say “smoking is like a 9/11 that hits Sonoma County every year. Each cigarette is like a little terrorist.”

    This is what happens when people stop governing themselves and turn to half wits like Lynn Chalfin to tell us how to live.

    By the way the kids can get marijuana any time, and easier than cigs, just sayin.

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  7. bill says:

    It is unfair and immoral to tax the addicted individuals and fail to apply the tax to those who profit from the addiction of tobacco.

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  8. bear says:

    Let’s look at this from the health insurance perspective. True, smokers will generate healthcare needs, perhaps at a younger age than “healthy” people.

    But when they die young, they eliminate huge obligations for Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and health insurance corporations.

    Let’s consider the true meaning of “average life expentancy.” This means that a whole hell of a lot of people have to die young. To support you if you should become really old.

    I’ve smoked, and I’d be happy if you rated my health insurance, but only if you apply the same rules to the young but crazy persons. Those that are obsese at age 12, who ski or snowboard, or skydive, or ride motorcycles, or base jump, or play serious sports like football, or skateboard or any such activities.

    All these people need health insurance, and I have no problem at all in requiring it, just like car insurance.

    We need to expand health coverage, rein in the profits of health insurance corporations, and charge people for the risks they pursue.

    The result could be no more $10 Q-tips in hospitals. And better care for people who beat the odds and wind up demented in some substandard nursing home when they’re over 90.

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  9. Reality Check says:

    One might defend sin taxes if the money raised was used to ameliorate the sin. The Feds recently evaluated and rated California “poor” in its use of cigarette taxes. Something like 6% of tax money raised went to smoking related programs.

    That is, folks, better to tax the (all too often) poor who smoke for government programs the middle class won’t pay for.

    Part of me hopes the tax passes and it generates a huge black market in cigarettes that bypasses all government taxes. When a majority imposes unconscionably high taxes on one segment of the population, resistance and evasion are a legitimate response.

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  10. Kim says:

    What’s with this mantra of “Tax The Other Guy”? As a non-smoker I already voted NO!

    The federal government already pours 4 Biillon a year of our tax dollars into cancer research. After administrative costs the amount of money actually going to cancer research from Prop 29 will be miniscule. All it is is a place to put washed up politicians who can not sucle off the teet of the California cow any longer to earn a paycheck, such as Carole Migden’s overpaid (to the tune of a six figure income for four meetings a year) job on the Waste Management Board.

    If you think this is going to make people stop smoking, you could be partially correct. It may prevent SOME but not the figures the pro-29 people would want you to believe. Eventually the numbers will diminish with the anti-smoking education,etc. As the numbers diminish there will be less taxes collected. As we all know once a “program” has started such as Prop 29 and First Five (50 cent tax on a pack now) it will never go away. Who do you think will be footing the bill for these programs? The California Taxpayers! YOU!

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  11. GAJ says:

    Creating another bureaucracy will ensure that the percentage of money put to good use will be minimized.

    Never mind the fact that it will have the severest impact on those below the poverty line as they are addicted at higher levels than those above the poverty line.

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