Prop 29 Splits California Voters

LOS ANGELES — A California initiative to raise the tax on tobacco products was losing early Wednesday but the vote was still too close to call because hundreds of thousands of ballots potentially remained uncounted.

The day after Election Day, Proposition 29 was losing by just over 1 percent, or about 64,000 votes out of more than 3.8 million counted.

However, even with all precincts reporting, there typically are many late-arriving ballots from early and absentee voting not counted until after election day. These ballots typically comprise up to 20 percent of all votes, meaning potentially hundreds of thousands of votes were still to be counted statewide.

It could be days or longer before a winner is declared.

Cycling legend Lance Armstrong backed the measure to impose an additional $1-per-pack tax on cigarettes to fund cancer research. A $50 million opposition ad campaign was led by Big Tobacco.

In March, a statewide poll suggested the Proposition 29 would pass with two-thirds approval.

The situation reminded some of a 2006 California cigarette tax measure that was leading by wide margins until tobacco companies spent $66 million to defeat it.

The attempt to hike taxes on cigarettes and other tobacco products grew into a national fight last month with tobacco companies pouring in millions to quash the effort and celebrities including the New York City Mayor urging voters to support it.

As returns came in, both camps said they expected a close race but remained confident they would emerge the winner.

“We expected that as voters took a look at the measure, they would recognize the serious flaws, and as well intentioned as the measure is, they would realize it’s not right for California,” Beth Miller, spokeswoman for the No on 29 campaign said Wednesday.

Tobacco taxes have been proven to reduce smoking. But opponents said the initiative would create an unaccountable bureaucracy in charge of doling out the tax revenue, which is expected to start at $735 million a year.

An extra tax in the nation’s most populous state also could mean major losses for tobacco companies, and Proposition 29 supporters said industry heavyweights were inventing arguments to obscure their true motive – safeguarding profits.

“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.

Armstrong and a coalition of anti-smoking groups raised about $18 million to bolster the measure. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg gave $500,000 to the campaign to help offset the industry donations.

Majorities in the Democratic-leaning counties along the Northern California coast favored the tax, while majorities in most other regions others opposed it. Voters on both sides expressed strong convictions as they cast their ballots.

“I think that we should aggressively discourage smoking – make it less convenient, make it more expensive,” said Susan Hyman of Long Beach.

In nearby Glendale, Craig Jerpseth, a 43 year-old nurse, was equally certain about voting the measure down.

“I hope we don’t get any more taxes. That’s pretty much it,” he said.

A slew of newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times, opposed the measure while proclaiming their reluctance to side with tobacco companies. They argued that the revenue should go to the state, which Gov. Jerry Brown announced last month now faces a deficit of $16 billion.

With a smoking rate of 12.1 percent, California has not raised these taxes since 2000. If the measure passes, California would still have only the 16th highest tax rate in the nation.


Associated Press writers Raquel Maria Dillon in Los Angeles and Amy Taxin in Long Beach contributed to this report.

Related on HuffPost:

Videos and commercials for and against Proposition 29.

  • Stand Up to Big Tobacco — Yes on Prop 29

    On June 5, Vote Yes on Proposition 29. Video Narration: Lance Armstrong and LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. One click to share on FB: One click to share on Twitter: Like on Facebook: Pledge your support: Credits: Film produced by Portal A Director: Kai Hasson DP: Matt Clarke

  • Understanding Proposition 29 — June 2012 California Ballot

    Imposes Additional Tax on Cigarettes for Cancer Research. What is this prop about? The League of Women Voters of Cupertino-Sunnyvale provides an analysis.

  • BeePolitical CA Proposition 29 – Tobacco Tax for Cancer Research Act (June 5, 2012)

    Learn about the upcoming June 5 California Ballot Proposition 29 – Tobacco Tax for Cancer Research Act: Initiative Statute Starring Eric Roberts as “Bee”. BeePolitical is not affiliated with any political party and its service is strictly nonpartisan and unbiased in its interpretations based upon the values of integrity, ethics, candor, trust, objectivity, and a steadfast commitment to a well-informed voting population.

  • LIVESTRONG Leaders Vote “YES” on Prop 29

    LIVESTRONG Leaders from California talk about why they will vote YES on Proposition 29 this June.

  • Prop 29 Announcement

    Diablo Valley Oncology Supports Tobacco Tax PLEASANT HILL, CA (February 1, 2012) — Diablo Valley Oncology (DVO) announced today its endorsement of the California Cancer Research Act (CCRA)-Proposition 29, a statewide ballot initiative that, if passed, would generate funds for cancer research in the state as well as tobacco prevention and cessation programs through a new a $1-per-pack state tax on cigarettes. DVO joins a coalition of groups — co-chaired by LIVESTRONG founder Lance Armstrong and former State Senator Don Perata, and including the American Cancer Society, American Lung Association, American Heart Association, the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, Stand Up To Cancer, and others — working on CCRA, which could direct almost $600 million a year into research on cancer and tobacco-related illnesses. “Medical research is very expensive,” said Matthew Sirott, MD, an Oncologist and CEO of Diablo Valley Oncology. “The CCRA will provide a much-needed source of funds for researchers working on all types of cigarette related cancers. Plus, the dollars will stay in California.” said Sirott. More than 140000 Californians will be diagnosed with cancer this year — 16 cases every hour — and more than 54000 will die from it. The goal of the Diablo Valley Oncology is to change those dire odds by accelerating critical cancer research that will get new treatments to patients quickly and save lives. “The CCRA plan for funding cancer research makes sense,” said Sandy Goldberg b…/b

  • No on Proposition 29

    Stop the $735 Million Tax Hike!

  • The People behind the NO-on-29 Campaign: Do You Trust Them?

    These are the same people responsible for the NO on PROP 29 campaign. They wrote and paid for the No-On-29 TV and Radio ads. Share on Facebook: Share on Twitter:

  • Yes on Proposition 29 Launch

    The Prop 29 Launch: 22 Rallies, 22 Cities, one message: you either side with Big Tobacco or you support cancer research, want to save lives, and keep kids from smoking. There is no middle ground. Vote Yes on Prop 29!

  • proposition 29 california ad

    smoking is bad

  • California Supports Big Tobacco [PROP 29 OFFICIAL VIDEO]

    On June 5, Will You Stand Up for Big Tobacco? The choice is simple Yes on Proposition 29 is a $1 fee on cigarettes to support cancer research, save lives, and keep kids from smoking. No on Proposition 29 is bankrolled with $40 million from Big Tobacco (why hello Philip Morris). [SPREAD THE WORD] Share on FB: Share on Twitter: #BigTobaccoLovesYou [CREDITS] Created by: Portal A [ Director: Kai Hasson DP: Jackson Myers Editor: Cinesaurus Original Score: Joachim Horsley [FROM THE LAWYERS] Yes on 29 – Californians for a Cure, Sponsored by the American Cancer Society California Division, Inc., American Lung Association in California, American Heart Association and Cancer Research Doctors. Major funding by Lance Armstrong Foundation and American Cancer Society California Division, Inc. Keywords: Proposition 29 Prop 29 Yes on 29 Yes on Prop 29 [PRESS ROUNDUP] “Watch this video. It just might be the most refreshing campaign ad we’ve seen to date.” – SF Weekly (Hilarious Campaign Video Explains Why California Should Smoke) “A political campaign in California aims to increase the price of cigarettes by one dollar and use the proceeds to fund cancer research. They’ve released this hilarious video on Tuesday to get the word out.” – Mashable (Campaign Takes on Big Tobacco — By Supporting It) “… Polling suggests Prop 29 may pass. As for the ad, our verdict: It’s a fun, sharp way to make a point…” – The Atlantic (Thank You For b…/b

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