Proposition 29, a California initiative proposes to raise taxes on cigarettes by a dollar a pack and earmarks the proceeds for cancer research, was too close to call Tuesday morning, reports The Associated Press. The initiative is backed by Lance Armstrong and his foundation, and met a two-thirds approval rating from California residents in a poll just two months ago.
The current cigarette tax in the state is 87 cents, which falls below the national average of $1.46. The tax raise would garner $735 million dollars a year. California has not raised taxes since 2000. The smoking rate for California is 12.1 percent.
It could be days before the final outcome is determined. The tax was heavily fought by the tabacco industry, with millions of dollars being poured into the race. Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds spent close to $46 million in ads opposing the hike. On the opposing side, and in support of the tax, anti-smoking groups (along with Lance Armstrong) raised around $18 million, with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg giving $500,000 to the campaign.
"I think the public health message has gotten through the smoke screen of the tobacco companies' nearly $50 million misinformation campaign," Jim Knox of the American Cancer Society said Tuesday.
What do you think? Should cigarettes be taxed, and if so, how much? Share in the comments!