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Proposition 29 Supporters Deliver Message To Big Tobacco

Evening Edition

Supporters of a California measure to raise the tax on a pack of cigarettes brought their campaign to San Diego. The group faces an uphill battle to get Proposition 29 approved in June. Smoking rates in California are at the lowest level in 20 years.

Nearly 12 percent of Californians said they smoked in 2010, according to a state survey. That's down significantly from the early 1980s when the rate among adults was closer to 26 percent. Even teenage smoking has fallen.

State officials attribute the decline to decades of anti-smoking campaigns. California voters approved paying for the ads with a tobacco tax in 1988. What followed were bans on smoking in bars, restaurants and most offices.

Don Maguire, 68, was a two-pack a day smoker for 35 years. He's now an American Heart Association volunteer and supporter of Proposition 29. "I couldn't kick the habit, it took a heart attack for me to finally say 'that's it,'" said Maguire.

"The biggest thing is to catch kids early because it is terribly difficult to break the habit, and from a health care standpoint, all of us will pay for somebody else's smoking," said Maguire.

If California voters approve Proposition 29 in June, it will provide nearly $600 million a year for cancer, heart disease, stroke and other smoking-related research.

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