Cancer Advocates Extremely Disappointed in Defeat of Initiative I-185 in Montana After Big Tobacco Spends $18 Million to Defeat

November 9, 2018

Initiative 185 Would Have Saved Lives, Saved Money and Funded Vital Services Including Medicaid to Improve the Lives of Montanans

MISSOULA, Mont.—Nov. 7, 2018—Unfortunately, despite strong grassroots support, Montana’s Initiative 185 was voted down after Big Tobacco poured $18 million into our state in order to keep Montanans addicted. Initiative 185 that would have raised the price of cigarettes by $2 per pack and increased the tax on all other tobacco products like electronic cigarettes. If passed, Initiative 185 would have funded critical programs such as Medicaid and veteran and senior services. The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) was a member of the Healthy Montana coalition that attempted to pass this lifesaving tax increase.

Kristin Page-Nei, Montana government relations director for ACS CAN, released the following statement in response:

“It has been an honor to stand united with doctors, nurses, hospitals and every major health and patient advocacy group in the state to try to pass this life saving tobacco tax policy. This could have been the most important public health policy passed in Montana in 13 years.

“Initiative 185 would have done so much good for Montana, by saving lives, reducing health care costs and funding critical programs and services like Medicaid for some of our most vulnerable residents. 100,000 Montanans are now at risk of losing their healthcare.

“Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death and disease. It doesn’t just impact our health, it also hurts all of us financially. I-185 would have raised much-needed new revenue for Medicaid, veteran’s programs and services to help seniors, and it would have also lowered our health care costs, saved lives and helped reduce tobacco use. Every Montana household right now pays $759 in taxes every year because of smoking-caused government expenditures.

“Big Tobacco has a stronghold on our state, and companies like RJ Reynolds and Altria have spent millions over the years to lobby politicians and fund campaigns to defeat tobacco taxes. Last legislative session, the tobacco industry halted our efforts to pass a tobacco tax bill and now, they poured nearly $18 million into the campaign to defeat I-185. It’s because they know strong tobacco taxes like this mean fewer people using their deadly products, fewer kids will start their lifelong addiction – and that hurts their financial bottom line.  Big Tobacco deceived Montana voters to protect their target market – our kids.

“Unless Montanans take action to reduce the burden of tobacco, Montana families and small businesses will continue shouldering the cost for Big Tobacco and sadly, many more families will lose loved ones from deadly tobacco addictions.”

Montana has not raised its cigarette tax since 2005. The state’s current cigarette tax is $1.70 per pack, which ranks below the national average and one of the lowest in the country. A $2 cigarette tax increase would have saved 4,800 lives from premature death, prevented 8,000 Montana kids from becoming adult smokers and helped 9,300 adults quit.

The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) is making cancer a top priority for public officials and candidates at the federal, state and local levels. ACS CAN empowers advocates across the country to make their voices heard and influence evidence-based public policy change as well as legislative and regulatory solutions that will reduce the cancer burden. As the American Cancer Society’s nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy affiliate, ACS CAN is critical to the fight for a world without cancer. For more information, visit




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