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Big Tobacco adds nearly $9 million to fight against cigarette tax

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Big Tobacco is going all in against Proposition 29, the June ballot measure that would hike cigarette taxes by $1 per pack.

On Thursday, the parent companies of Philip Morris USA and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. reported nearly $9 million in contributions to the opposition campaign. That gives the tobacco companies a war chest of more than $23.5 million to fight the ballot measure, which is projected to raise more than $850 million a year to be used to fund cancer research, build new research facilities and aid anti-smoking programs.

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The opposition campaign’s name telegraphs the message to come: Californians Against Out-Of-Control Taxes and Spending.

By comparison, supporters of the cigarette tax, including the American Heart Assn., the American Lung Assn., and the American Cancer Society, have raised $2.9 million. Half of that comes from the foundation of Lance Armstrong, the seven-time Tour de France champion and cancer survivor.

Tobacco companies appear to be fighting public sentiment. A USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll last month found that 68% of California voters favored Proposition 29, compared with 29% who opposed it.

Still, the public has rejected a variety of tax increases in recent years, including tobacco levies. In 2006, voters spurned a proposal to increase cigarette taxes by $2.60 a pack to reimburse hospitals for treating uninsured patients and to expand health insurance coverage for children.

RELATED:

Strong majority backs Jerry Brown’s tax-hike initiative

Lance Armstrong campaigns for California cigarette tax measure

Lance Armstrong campaigns for tobacco tax initiative to fund cancer research

-- Michael J. Mishak in Sacramento
Twitter.com/mjmishak


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