Quitting Rates are Up, Electronic Cigarettes May be Helping

As reported by KQED:

Electronic cigarettes may be a helpful tool for those who are looking to quit smoking, according to a recent study. This complicates the public health narrative around this new tobacco product, which have grown in popularity in the U.S. over the past decade.

E-cigarettes are relatively new to the market, and their rapid popularity has caused public health agencies to grapple to create regulations and messaging around a technology with unclear health implications. This study, published in the journal BMJ, puts some weight behind the idea the e-cigarettes can have a positive health impact on those who are trying to kick cigarettes.

The e-cigarette uses a coil to heat a nicotine solution so it can be inhaled as vapor. This process can allow users to get their nicotine fix while leaving behind the carcinogens associated with breathing in smoke. Trading in a regular cigarette for an electronic option could have significant health implications considering smoking cigarettes remains the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S. …

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San Francisco’s ban on menthol cigarettes is liberalism at its worst

ICigarettesn San Francisco, megalomaniacal tech millionaires gorge themselves on exorbitantly priced plates of nettle fazzoletti while thousands of people live in unimaginable squalor. If you are interested in dropping some coin to attend a live performance of something called Public Disgrace, featuring “sex between male dominant and female submissive; domination by female and male dom; secure bondage, gags, hoods, fondling, flogging, and forced orgasms with vibrators,” the City by the Bay has you covered.

If, on the other hand, you are one of the city’s lucky homeless, yuppie public health fanatics might graciously allow you the privilege of soiling yourself in public without the risk of a jail sentence.

But as of next April, it will be illegal to purchase menthol cigarettes in San Francisco.

For the knowledge workers indulging in “burgundy-braised lamb cupcakes with beet-whipped mashed potato frosting and chive sprinkles,” this arbitrary and capricious prohibition of a substance that offers less rarefied pleasure to thousands of their fellow citizens will not seem like much of a setback. Nor will they find fault with the reasoning of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors that menthols are “starter products” that are “typically marketed to vulnerable populations including children and young adults, African Americans, and LGBTQ people.” I mean, like, seriously.

How many of these cauliflower popcorn-eaters and consensual BDSM aficionados have ever taken a big drag from a Newport Menthol 100? The assumption that African-Americans enjoy menthol cigarettes because they are the hapless dupes of Big Tobacco is the sort of risible condescension characteristic of liberalism at its worst.

It never occurs to me the 30 or so times a day when I put another tube of brown leaves in my mouth and flick my lighter to say, “Man, this is so good for my health.” But the fact that cigarettes are bad is not exactly occult knowledge. Millions of us smoke anyway and will never quit, San Francisco do-gooders be damned.

Has it ever occurred to self-satisfied liberals that some people smoke menthols, or any other kind of cigarette, because they find it enjoyable, the same way that some of their fellows get a kick out of watching women being contractually beaten and spat upon, albeit without the consequences to their immortal souls?

I also find it impossible to make sense of the city’s argument that the “financial cost to San Francisco in direct health-care expenses and lost productivity from tobacco use is estimated at around $380 million a year.” Never mind the rune-casting arithmancy involved in assuming that every person who has ever taken so much as a puff of a cigarette and then in the course of his three-score years and ten gone in for a routine physical is costing the city money directly attributable to the existence of the demon leaf. Far more mystifying — indeed mystical — is the notion that it is possible to calculate “lost productivity.” How do they know that people aren’t working harder because they have smoke breaks to keep them going?

But this isn’t only a question of public accounting jujitsu. It is far more sinister and pernicious. To say that smokers can ever ipso facto “cost” their fellow citizens money in “lost productivity” is to claim that they are not human beings made in the image of God but rather specimens of Homo economicus — animate clusters of matter whose telos is contributing to the increase in our per capita gross domestic product. It is the same argument that used to be made by General Motors against line workers who, before the Great Flint Sit-Down Strike, were haughty enough to imagine they might be allowed to have conversations at lunch time. People are not economic variables — they are, well, people.

The consequences of the menthol ban are as predictable as they are unfortunate. People will not simply give up their cherished habit, especially when the product in question is available in nearby jurisdictions. Instead, this over-taxed consumable will become an illicit substance, and a black market for menthols will flourish. Is this really a prudent public policy decision at a time when selling loosie cigarettes can get you killed by the police on the opposite coast? This is exactly the point that Al Sharpton argued earlier this year at a series of public forums that banning menthols would only give law enforcement another excuse to lock up minorities.

I am proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with the good reverend here. Banning menthols is class warfare at its ugliest.

This article was originally published by The Week.

Tobacco Tax – Conflicting Goals of Prop. 56

cigarette smoking ashesWhat is the tobacco tax increase for? Is the tax proposed in Proposition 56 to reduce smoking or to gain revenue? It seems the proponents’ goal is to be all things — a deterrent to smoking by raising the cost, plus raising revenue mostly for health care. Can they really have it both ways?

Raising the cost of a product means you will get less of it. The idea behind raising the cost of cigarettes and other tobacco products is to diminish and even eliminate their use. Previous tobacco tax increases have been accompanied by reduced use.

In a new study by the Proposition 56 campaign aimed at convincing the business community of the measure’s positive economic impacts, additional costs for a single smoking employee in health care costs and reduced productivity is calculated to be more than $5,000 per year.

The study also notes that, “From an employer ’s perspective, money spent on Medi-Cal is a good investment.”

About a billion dollars raised by the new tax would be dedicated to Medi-Cal. The idea is for an on-going financial commitment to the Medi-Cal program that has seen a dramatically increased population in recent years–and not just because of smokers. California has one the smallest percentage of smokers of any state.

The study briefly remarks on the loss of business for retailers who carry tobacco products asserting that the net benefit of eliminating “all” smokers would outweigh the costs involved from lost revenue of private sector retailers and lost government revenue. In this context, can we call eliminating all smokers a pipe dream?

If cessation of smoking is the prime goal, with all the economic benefits that the study says comes with the end of smoking, why not raise the tax instead of $2 a pack to $20 or more. That should discourage smokers.

But then all the revenue will disappear as well.

How important is the revenue goal of Proposition 56? If revenue diminishes with the decrease in smoking won’t those who benefit from the government dollars look for a replacement? In fact, Proposition 56 calls on the state Controller to transfer some of the new money to programs already benefiting from previous tobacco tax increases to make up the expected revenue loss if this measure passes. It stands to reason that those benefiting from the revenue haul from an increased tax will not want it to disappear.

There’s an example of such logic on the same ballot. California voters will decide on Proposition 55 to continue what was supposed to be a temporary tax.

Hospitals and health care union members are taking a two-prong approach to fund Medi-Cal. Go after dollars from the rich with Proposition 55’s extension of the income tax, and capture money from the poor who tend to make up the bulk of smokers with Proposition 56’s tobacco tax increase.

So, what is the intention of Proposition 56 — is it designed to discourage and ultimately stop smoking, or is it to raise revenue?

This piece was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

17 Initiatives Qualify for November Ballot

Voting boothVoters have been warned for a while to be prepared for a seemingly never-ending series of ballot measures, and on Thursday the secretary of state released the final list of what initiatives qualified.

Seventeen total. And while voters will read and learn more as the campaigns unfold between now and Election Day, here is a quick reference guide to get your bearings.

Referendum to Overturn Ban on Single-Use Plastic Bags: This is as it sounds. In 2014, the Legislature passed a ban on single-use plastic bags. So a “yes” vote would uphold the ban. A “no” vote would overturn it.

To uphold the law would ban the use of single-use carryout bags, except for perishable items. It would also impose a fee of at least $.10 per paper bag or thicker plastic bag if the customer didn’t provide a reusable one.

The ban actually died on the Assembly floor in 2014 three days before it passed. What changed? A deal was struck between the United Food and Commercial Workers Union and Safeway creating the $.10 fee, which will be kept by the grocer/retailer.

Plastic Bags, Part II: If the plastic bag ban is upheld by voters, this initiative would divert the $.10 fees for bags to a state fund to pay for environmental programs. This would be in lieu of the money going to the grocers.

Campaign Finance (Poll): This is basically just an elaborate poll. It’s a non-binding measure that allows voters through the ballot process to log their approval or disapproval of campaign finance law in the country.

A similar measure got tied up in court in 2014, as opponents called it a ploy to drive voter turnout. But in January, the state Supreme Court ruled it was allowable, and so here it is.

Specifically at question is the 2010 Citizens United ruling where the U.S. Supreme Court allowed for corporations and labor unions to spend unlimited sums in support or opposition of a political candidate.

Guns and Ammo: This is Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom’s pet project. This would ban magazines of 11 rounds or more, require background checks for ammunition and require the state to share data in the FBI’s background check system, among other things.

However, a bill passed by the Legislature on Thursday but not signed yet by Gov. Jerry Brown would amend this ballot initiative (yes, it amends something that isn’t yet law) to further limit who can purchase ammunition to both persons whose data matches up with the Automated Firearms System and to those who have a ammunition purchase authorization. There are some exceptions.

Naturally, this sidestep of Newsom to amend his measure ruffled his feathers, dragging him and Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon, the bill’s sponsor, into a public disagreement.

“This last-minute, anti-democratic, poison pill sneak attack makes you wonder if the Pro Tem cares about himself more than he cares about doing the right thing,” said Newsom spokesman Dan Newman, according to The Sacramento Bee. “Is he someone who truly respects the will of the voters and wants to reduce gun violence or is he merely a self-serving cynic completely consumed with petty personal grudges?”

Death Penalty Repeal: This repeals the death penalty as the maximum punishment for murder and replaces it with life without parole, applying retroactively to those already sentenced to death.

This has a provision mandating those who’ve been sentenced to life without parole to work, with 60 percent of their income possibly going towards restitution to victims.

The Opposite of a Death Penalty Repeal: And for those who think the death penalty should stay as the ultimate sentence for murder, this measure would speed up the process by implementing a time limit on the lengthy appeals process, by assigning the superior court for the initial review and by limiting the number of successive petitions.

Like the competing measure, this would impose a work requirement for restitution to victims.

Drug Pricing: This would set pharmaceutical prices for any state agency to be as low as what the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs pays — the VA benefits from federally mandated cost controls.

According to KPCC, the measure would apply to “any program in which the state is the ultimate payer for a drug,” which includes: Medi-Cal fee-for-service plans, CalPERS (provides health benefits to current and retired state employees), prison inmates and people receiving AIDS drugs from the government.

Condoms in Porn: This may as well be called the Condoms In Porn Act, because it would require porn actors to wear condoms during the filming of sexual intercourse.

It also requires that producers provide testing and vaccinations for STDs. And for what it’s worth, producers would also have to post the condom requirements at the job site.

No Blank Checks Initiative: This would require any bond of $2 billion or more for a state project to go before the voters for approval.

As dull as that sounds, it could have a dramatic impact on Gov. Jerry Brown’s legacy, in that it would likely put funding for the bullet train and the twin tunnels water project up to a vote of the people.

School Bond: This would authorize $9 billion in bonds for school construction and modernization, supported by a coalition of school districts and school developers. Pretty self-explanatory.

The measure failed to qualify in 2014, however, amid opposition from Gov. Jerry Brown, who said at the time local school construction was best left up to local control.

Earlier this year, Brown reiterated his opposition, calling the initiative a “blunderbuss effort that promotes sprawl and squanders money that would be far better spent in low-income communities,” according to EdSource.

FYI: Blunderbuss is a “blundering person,” according to Merriam-Webster. It’s also an old fashioned, muzzle-loading gun.

Prop. 30 extension: This is a 12-year extension of Prop. 30, which was a seven-year temporary tax on earnings of more than $250,000 annually to bolster education funding, with the extension coming two years early.

Prop. 30 passed to stave of imminent sharp cuts in education. Now that the economy has recovered, proponents want to keep the money flowing and now hospitals want a cut too.

The extension would allow a quarter-cent sales tax that was part of Prop. 30 to expire, but would add up to $2 billion in funding per year for Medi-Cal, the state’s Medicaid program.

As part of Prop. 30, the program was supposed to receive several layers of accountability, including a state-run audit of the fund that doles out the money to schools that still hasn’t happened. The controller’s office previously told CalWatchdog the audit would likely happen before voters have to decide.

California Legislature Transparency Act: The CLTA is a constitutional amendment requiring the Legislature to make available online the final version of a bill at least 72 hours prior to a vote on either the Assembly or Senate floor. It would also require all open legislative meetings be recorded with the videos posted online within 24 hours and would give permission to individuals to record and share their own videos of open meetings.

Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, D-Lakewood, is currently negotiating with CLTA proponents over changes proposed by the Legislature — but the negotiations are not going well.

Multilingual Education: This would repeal most of Prop. 227, which in 1998 placed heavy restrictions on bilingual educations for English learners in favor of English-immersion education.

Why would voters overturn their prior decision? Education Week framed the debate well. Proponents argue new data shows the value of bilingual education, native English speakers would be allowed access to a bilingual education (if they choose), and because we live in a different world with rapidly changing demographics.

Why would voters keep Prop. 227 on the books? Ron Unz, a former candidate for U.S. Senate and governor who pushed for Prop. 227, argued that an overall improvement over a year-period in standardized test scores shows Prop. 227 worked. And others would likely make a nativist argument: This is America, and residents should learn English.

Medi-Cal Hospital Reimbursement: This one is a little confusing. The federal government contributes to the state’s health care program for low-income patients, called Medi-Cal. In order to get this money, the state has to contribute matching funds.

In 2009, the state passed a law taxing hospitals to help contribute to the state’s portion of the Medi-Cal funding to get the money from the feds. However, the state was diverting some of this money into the general fund.

So, this measure amends the state Constitution requiring these funds go to where they are intended.

It would require a two-thirds vote of the Legislature to amend the fee allocation program only when the changes would “amend or add provisions that further the purposes of the Act.” It would require voter approval to repeal or replace the program with a “similar statute imposing a tax, fee or assessment unless that similar statute is either.”

Sentencing overhaul:  Jerry Brown’s baby. After surviving a legal challenge and rumored sky-high signature collecting fees, this bill made it to the ballot just before the deadline.

Brown’s measure would allow for some nonviolent felons to be paroled early in certain instances, require judges to hold hearings prior to determining whether to try juveniles as an adult, and develop a good behavior, parole-and-sentence credit system for prisoners.

Marijuana Legalization: This would allow individuals, 21 and older, to transport and use up to an ounce of recreational pot. It would allow individuals to grow as many as six plants.

If approved, California would join Alaska, Colorado, Washington and Oregon in allowing recreational pot.

Tobacco Tax: If this passes, smokers would pay a $2-per-pack tax on cigarettes, with a similar increase on other tobacco products and e-cigs containing nicotine. The money will go primarily to healthcare and anti-smoking/tobacco-related health programs.

This piece was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

Los Angeles Laboratory for Local Tax Increases

taxesIn the primary election this month 89 local taxes and bonds faced voters. The total is expected to increase in November. In some jurisdictions voters likely will face multiple tax increases dedicated for different purposes.

Los Angeles is a prime example.

Today, the transportation agency known as Metro is considering a half-cent sales tax to fund transportation projects. Los Angeles already has a sales tax for transportation but it has an end date approaching. No end date on the new tax proposal. In a change of tactics, Metro leaders decided to extend the sales tax on a permanent basis.

Los Angeles city residents will probably also face a bond or parcel taxes to fund homeless remedies. The city council plans to move both measures forward, making the final decision on which mechanism to advance to the ballot once council members can further “study” the issue.

Consider that shorthand for which version polls better.

In fact, polling already seems to be moving the decision makers to consider a bond to benefit the homeless. Voters often look at bonds as free money, not realizing that they are funded by property tax increases. Polling shows greater acceptance for bonds than parcel taxes, which have the dreaded “tax” word attached.

In reality, a $1 billion bond would cost twice as much as the $1 billion parcel tax program because of the interest to pay the bond. Parcel taxes have their own issues that could upset a campaign to achieve the necessary two-thirds voter for passage, the same mark bonds must hit. Would a parcel tax be levied per parcel or per square footage? Square foot charges are aimed at collecting more revenue from larger, commercial properties, which likely would open the door for an opposition campaign funded by business. In addition, a square footage tax may be challenged as unconstitutional.

Despite the economics of the more expensive bond proposal, the politics favor pursuing that approach.

Meanwhile, Los Angeles County is considering a parcel tax for parks. The county also considered raising an income tax for the homeless but that plan has sputtered. It required state approval which it did not get. The parks proposal would more than double revenue now brought in by the property assessments that currently help fund county parks. Again, business is opposed to the square foot method and has informed county supervisors that so many, varied tax measures cannot be justified.

In addition to local taxes, voters will face statewide tax measures on the ballot. The $2 a pack cigarette tax increase and the Proposition 30 income tax extension initiatives are both expected to be on the ballot. And, let’s not forget that the marijuana legalization measure has a tax attached to the growth and sale of cannabis.

Analysts wonder how voters will react to an onslaught of taxes. The question is particularly of concern in localities like Los Angeles if all the taxes are placed on the ballot. Many of the local taxes and bonds, unlike the state measures, require a two-thirds vote to pass.

My guess is that multiple tax measures will benefit opponents who need just over one-third of the vote to defeat most tax measures.

ditor of Fox & Hounds and president of the Small Business Action Committee.

This piece was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

10 Would-Be Initiatives Prep for November Ballot

As reported by the Sacramento Bee:

They aren’t yet officially on the November ballot, but 10 would-be fall initiatives are being readied with healthy fundraising efforts.

In the weeks since the May 20 deadline to submit initiative signatures, the campaigns pushing the measures have reported collecting more than $3.2 million. The biggest recipient has been the campaign to increase cigarette taxes by $2 a pack, to $2.87, with Save Lives California raising more than $1.1 million.

Almost all of that came from the California State Council of Services Employees, which donated $1 million on May 31.

Backers of the sentencing reform measure initiated by Gov. Jerry Brown have raised more than $765,000 since May 20. The bulk of that came from the California Democratic Party, which gave $500,000 to Californians for Public Safety and Rehabilitation on Wednesday. …

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Cap-and-Trade, Cigarette Tax and the Tale of Dwindling Funds

SmokingCalifornia’s cap and trade program and cigarette tax increases have something in common — the more they encourage behavioral changes in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and smoking, the less revenue they bring in. If the goal is to reduce the pollutants and the smoke then the programs can claim some success. But, these programs also appear to be about the money.

While the Legislature considered ways to divvy up the current cache of cap and trade money, tremors were felt through the system when the May cap and trade auction sold only 11 percent of the permits offered to business and fell far short of the expected revenues.

The cap and trade program is designed for companies to cap greenhouse gases or purchase permits at auction or traded in the market.

What happens if the polluting companies achieve the goal of reducing greenhouse gases and do not need permits? As Stanford economist Frank Wolak told the Los Angeles Times in a comprehensive article on the cap and trade issue, “To the extent that not all the permits are being sold, that is a success of the program.”

But not necessarily a positive to those who want to spend the money that come from the cap and trade auctions.

Chief among them is Gov. Jerry Brown. He needs the money to bolster his bullet train project, which is not capturing the revenues it needs to meet its enormous cost. Other programs designed to reduce climate change are also dependent on money from cap and trade. If greenhouse gases are reduced and there is no need to spend on permits, money is not available for the train or other projects.

There is a similar story when cigarette taxes are raised. Programs are funded with the expected revenue but when the increased taxes turn off smokers from purchasing cigarettes (that’s part of the plan we are told by advocates) the money dries up liked cured tobacco leaves.

Cigarette purchases are down and so is the revenue. The fund that pays the First 5 commissions has seen state revenue from the cigarette tax drop about $150 million annually since its peak. Now there is an initiative bid for an additional cigarette tax. The measure’s proponents recognized the potential for revenue decreases if the tax passes. In the measure, they wrote that if the new tax causes reduced tobacco consumption, that make-up revenue from the new tax would be transferred to existing tobacco funded programs.

But once this new tax reduces consumption where does the money come from to fund those existing programs or for the recipients who will receive money if the cigarette tax initiative passes?

Is cap and trade a different kind of revenue source than taxes on cigarettes? The California Chamber of Commerce doesn’t think so. That organization is seeking a court ruling that cap and trade revenue is a tax. Like the cigarette tax, given the goal of both the cap and trade fee and cigarette tax, the cap and trade charge could also be considered a “sin” tax. It is being levied to punish (and reduce) a certain practice.

It has been argued that not as much money would be needed for the anti-smoking programs or greenhouse gas reduction because problems associated with these concerns would be at least partially solved.

Show of hands from those who believes the money won’t be missed by those who currently receive it and that they won’t try to find a way to make their budgets whole again.

Thought so.

This piece was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

Bid to Raise California Tobacco Tax Nears November Ballot

As reported by ABC News:

A well-financed campaign backed by billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer, medical groups and organized labor has collected enough signatures for a ballot measure to raise California’s cigarette tax by $2 a pack, officials said.

The Save Lives California coalition scheduled a news conference Monday at the San Diego County Registrar of Voters office to submit the first signatures in its effort to triple California’s cigarette tax to $2.87 a pack.

If enough signatures are verified, the measure would appear on an increasingly crowded Nov. 8 ballot alongside proposals to repeal a ban on single-use plastic bags at grocery stores and require actors to use condoms in adult films.

The announcement about the tobacco tax measure came less than a month after Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation to make California the second state in …

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Legalizing Marijuana … While Cracking Down on Tobacco

cigarette smoking ashesGovernor Jerry Brown just signed a package of tobacco regulatory bills sent to him by the California Legislature which is being billed as a “major victory for public health.”

Among the bills signed yesterday, was an increase in the age at which one can consume tobacco products from 18 to 21 and banning the use e-cigarette vaporizers in public places.

What is the point? In case the Legislature has not gotten the memo, the state is poised to legalize the recreational use of marijuana in California on the November 2016 ballot. So we’re legalizing marijuana but cracking down on tobacco – doesn’t that strike anyone around the Capitol as being a bit odd.

Based on polling, we know the public’s favorability of legalizing marijuana has dramatically increased over the last several decades. But is there is there any evidence that the California public is now all of a sudden demanding tougher tobacco regulation? I don’t think so.

As for controlling the use of tobacco by minors, the California Legislature is about 30 years too late. This type of legislation may have mattered in 1988 when California voters passed the first of its kind Prop. 99 which increased taxes on tobacco to fund public health programs. At that time, the Legislature was completely captured by the tobacco industry, and it has taken about 40 years to wean state lawmakers off campaign contributions from “big tobacco.”

Prop. 99 was found to have significantly reduced tobacco use and fatalities in California. At this time, public health advocates were calling for the California Legislature to send a message to the tobacco industry to quit targeting are kids and do something about the tobacco epidemic.

But 30 years later, this type of restriction is basically meaningless, and done more for appearances than any actual public policy benefit.

In the meantime, the Legislature has collected large amounts of tobacco campaign contributions, most of it funneled through the California Democratic Party, for a very long time. And now that those campaign contributions are starting to dry up, they decide it is now time to “get tough on tobacco.”

This is another example of the California Legislature trying to create a major legislative victory out of nothing, so it looks like they are doing a good job on policy issues such as “protecting public health,” and “standing up to big tobacco” in the run up to the 2016 election.

The reality is that raising the smoking age will not do much if anything to curb tobacco use. Research shows that most kids start smoking before age 18, and that restricting use to age 18 is not effective at preventing use to begin with.

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, more than 80 percent of all adult smokers begin smoking before the age of 18; and more than 90 percent do so before leaving their teens.

So what’s the Legislature’s solution, increase the smoking age to 21, even longer after teens have already started smoking. Moreover, making it illegal to smoke could even enhance its appeal to teens, and serve to be counter productive.

As for banning the e-vaporizers in public. These are intended to help people stop smoking by providing a smoke-less alternative. The smoking cessation industry has already criticized the banning of these instruments as being counterproductive to reducing tobacco use.

In California, individuals are considered to be “adults” at age 18, so why shouldn’t they be able to make their own decisions at that age regarding tobacco use. Does the California Legislature really need to tell legal adults everything that they should and should not be doing?

The last thing California needs is the California Legislature trying to act as the “responsible adult” on every marginal issue. Adding insult to injury, is California lawmakers “declaring victory” against an industry that has been one of their core supporters for the last 40 plus years.

Kersten Institute for Governance and Public Policy

This piece was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

Tobacco Tax Compromise Stumbles in Legislature

cigarette smoking ashesThe California Legislature passed a package of bills intended to diminish tobacco sales. While one measure allows county governments to seek a tax on cigarettes, a state tobacco tax was not included in the package. That’s not to say many in the Legislature would like a tobacco tax and efforts were made to convince the tobacco industry to go along with a deal that would include a state tax increase. The proposed deal would result in scuttling a ballot initiative aimed for November to increase the tobacco tax and kill some of the bills in the package.

Here’s how Los Angeles Times columnist George Skelton explained the maneuvering in his Monday column:

Behind the scenes, Senate leader Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) quietly is offering to negotiate with tobacco. If the industry were to allow the Legislature to pass a state tobacco tax, perhaps some of the package could be snuffed.

Then sponsors of a November ballot initiative that would raise the state cigarette tax by $2 per pack might be persuaded to withdraw their measure. That would save the tobacco industry upward of $100 million fighting the initiative.

Why wouldn’t the tobacco industry consider a more modest increase in the tax on cigarettes if some of the restrictive measures on tobacco were pushed aside and the initiative was pulled before it qualified for the ballot?

While tempting, the tobacco industry saw a big hurdle with any deal. There was no guarantee that if the deal were made a different interest group than the one behind the current ballot initiative would come along with a new tobacco tax effort in the near future. Or a future legislature could also consider a tax increase on tobacco.

Without a solid guarantee, the tobacco industry would rather take its stand now against any state tax increase. There is no way negotiating legislators can guarantee that some outside group won’t go to the ballot via the initiative with a new tax increase even if a deal is struck.

Many supporters of more tax revenue think tobacco and cigarettes is a good target because non-smoking voters outnumber smokers and tobacco users. Thus it is tempting for those who want to raise revenue to consider a tobacco tax.

The possibility that a new effort to raise tobacco taxes in the near future could not be guaranteed held back any legislative compromise on taxes.

Joel Fox is editor of Fox & Hounds and president of the Small Business Action Committee.

This piece was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

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