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Poll: Californians support proposition to increase tobacco tax

The latest Field Poll shows a vast majority of Californians support a ballot measure that would raise tobacco taxes by $2.60 a pack. Proposition 86 would use that money for a variety of health-related programs. KPBS Reporter Kenny Goldberg has more.

The Field Poll reveals 63 percent of likely voters are in favor of Prop. 86.

Mark DiCamillo directs the Field Poll. He says not only is support for the measure high among Democrats but also among Republicans, who are typically opposed to tax increases.

DiCamillo believes there are two main reasons for the broad support.

DiCamillo: "One is, it really wouldn't affect most voters, that is it only affects smokers. But I think more importantly, the purposes where the money is being devoted to, if this were to pass, I think are very popular, not only with Democrats but with Republicans."

Proposition 86 would generate an estimated $2.1 billion dollars a year. The money would go towards children's health insurance programs and hospital emergency rooms.

If the measure passes, California would have the nation's highest tobacco taxes.

Debra Kelley, with the American Lung Association, says the measure would help cut down on teen smoking.

Kelly: "One of the things we know about kids, is they are the most sensitive to price increases. The higher the cost of cigarettes, the less likely kids are to smoke."

Tobacco giant RJ Reynolds says it will spend $40 million to fight Proposition 86 and measures in three other states.

Mark DiCamillo believes negative advertising could dampen support for the ballot initiative.

Di Camillo: And the question is, will it have enough to hang on to victory.

1998 was the last time Californians voted on a cigarette tax initiative. It started out way ahead in the polls, too, but ended up squeaking out a narrow win. Kenny Goldberg, KPBS News.

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