WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Nov. 1, 2006 -- The tobacco industry is spending upwards of $100 million this election season to oppose ballot initiatives in several states that would protect the public from the deadly effects of tobacco use and secondhand smoke. The initiatives, in states from California to Florida, would establish smoke-free workplaces, raise excise taxes on tobacco products or require investment in tobacco control and prevention programs, strategies that have proven to reduce tobacco consumption and improve the health of those who smoke or are exposed to smokers.
Tobacco companies are also funding ballot measures in Arizona and Ohio that are clearly designed to mislead the public with suggestions that the initiatives will protect workers and nonsmokers from secondhand smoke. An editorial in today’s Washington Post says the tobacco industry is in “sheep’s clothing” when it comes to initiatives on the ballot Nov. 7 in at least six states. “When Big Tobacco has the chance to support the most effective measures to mitigate the health consequences of smoking, it instead uses tricky tactics and spends millions to defeat them,” the editorial reads.
“The stakes are high on Election Day for protecting children, nonsmoking adults and smokers themselves from the deadly consequences of tobacco use and secondhand smoke,” said John R. Seffrin, Ph.D., chief executive officer of the American Cancer Society and its sister advocacy organization, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN). “While the tobacco industry seeks to protect its enormous profits, we seek to save lives.”
“Increasing cigarette taxes and funding tobacco prevention and cessation programs are proven ways to reduce smoking rates,” said Daniel E. Smith, ACS CAN’s national vice president of government relations. “We are confident that voters will see through the tobacco industry’s reprehensible tactics and approve initiatives that will benefit public health.”
The Society and ACS CAN are devoting staff and resources to support tobacco control initiatives on the ballot next week in the following states:
ARIZONA – Proposition 201 would make all Arizona workplaces, including restaurants and bars, smoke-free and protect the right of all Arizona workers and the public to breathe smoke-free air. It is supported by public health organizations including the American Cancer Society.
Proposition 206 has been dubbed the "Arizona Non-Smoker Protection Act" and is backed by tobacco giant RJ Reynolds, which has pledged to spend $40 million to defeat tobacco control ballot measures this year. The measure would allow smoking in many restaurants and other workplaces, provide for no enforcement, roll back existing local smoke-free laws and prevent local governments from passing smoke-free laws in the future.
CALIFORNIA – Proposition 86 would increase the state cigarette tax by $2.60 per pack and use the revenue to fund tobacco prevention and cessation programs and other critical health programs. Philip Morris and RJ Reynolds have spent close to $60 million to defeat this initiative, which the California Department of Health Services says would prevent 700,000 kids from becoming adult smokers; prevent nearly 180,000 deaths due to smoking among California kids now under the age of 17; prevent approximately 120,000 additional deaths due to smoking among current California adult smokers who quit smoking; and save Californians $16 billion in health care costs.
FLORIDA – Amendment 4 would require the Florida Legislature to annually fund a comprehensive, statewide tobacco prevention program that follows best practices of the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The program would be paid for with funds from the landmark Master Settlement Agreement negotiated among states and tobacco companies in 1998 in response to the industry’s deceptive marketing practices.
MISSOURI – Amendment 3 would increase Missouri's cigarette tax by 80 cents, to 97 cents per pack, and increase the tax on other tobacco products by 20 percent. The new revenues would fund tobacco prevention and cessation programs and other critical health initiatives. Missouri currently ranks last in the nation in funding tobacco prevention programs and ranks next to last in the amount of its cigarette tax. Amendment 3 would bring Missouri's funding of tobacco prevention to the level recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
NEVADA – Question 5, the Nevada Clean Indoor Air Act, would prohibit smoking in restaurants, grocery stores, shopping malls, other retail establishments and bars that serve food. It would give local governments the authority to pass tougher smoke-free laws, and is supported by public health groups including the American Cancer Society. Question 4, which is backed by special interest groups including the Slot Route Operators and the Petroleum and Convenience Store Association and has the blessing of the tobacco industry, has the misleading name of "Responsibly Protect Nevadans From Secondhand Smoke." This initiative claims to restrict smoking when in fact it would allow smoking in many restaurants and other workplaces, including certain child care facilities, school buildings and grocery stores. It would prohibit local governments from passing stronger smoke-free laws in the future.
OHIO – Issue 5, called SmokeFree Ohio, would change state law to make all Ohio workplaces, including restaurants and bars, smoke-free and protect the rights of workers and the public to breathe smoke-free air. The initiative, which is supported by public health groups, would honor existing smoke-free laws that Ohio communities have enacted.
RJ Reynolds, the Ohio Licensed Beverage Association and other special interests are spending millions of dollars on Issue 4, called Smoke Less Ohio. Issue 4 claims to restrict smoking when in fact it would amend the Ohio Constitution to allow smoking in many restaurants and other workplaces, roll back existing laws in 21 Ohio cities and prevent local governments from passing smoke-free laws in the future.
SOUTH DAKOTA – Measure 2 would increase South Dakota's cigarette tax by $1 per pack and the tax on other tobacco products from 10 percent to 35 percent of the wholesale price. This increase would raise approximately $40 million a year to fund tobacco prevention and cessation programs, property tax relief, education enhancement and health care.
ACS CAN is the nonprofit, nonpartisan sister advocacy organization of the American Cancer Society. ACS CAN is dedicated to eliminating cancer as a major public health problem through voter education and issue campaigns aimed at influencing candidates and lawmakers to support laws and policies that will help people fight cancer. ACS CAN does not endorse candidates and is not a political action committee (PAC). For more information, visit www.fightcancer.org.
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