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Are TV Ads About Proposition 29 To Increase Cigarette Taxes Accurate?

Debra Kelley, director of advocacy and health initiative for San Diego American Lung Association, and Jennifer Jacobs, spokeswoman with Americans for Prosperity, talk to KPBS.

GUESTS:

Debra Kelley, Director, Advocacy and Health Initiative, American Lung Association, California.

Jennifer Jacobs, Americans for Prosperity, a conservative political advocacy organization.

Transcript

Special Feature KPBS Election Coverage

Television ads about Proposition 29, the cigarette tax initiative, can be confusing.

The state ballot measure would increase the tax on cigarettes in California by $1 a box to fund cancer research and anti-smoking campaigns. About $735 million a year would be generated from the measure, with $468 million annually going to cancer research, according to the California Legislative Analyst's Office.

But television commercials against the measure show doctors in white coats saying, “not one penny goes to new funding for cancer treatment.” Ads for the measure show cancer patients saying, “if it wasn’t for cancer research, I might not be alive today.”

Jennifer Jacobs, a spokeswoman for the conservative political advocacy organization Americans for Prosperity, told KPBS she believes Prop 29 is “a flawed initiative.”

“It’s just another tax increase that creates a whole other bureaucracy that’s not accountable to tax payers,” she said.

If passed, the measure will establish The California Cancer Research Act Oversight Committee, a nine-member governing committee to administer the funds. But Jacobs said there is no taxpayer oversight of the funding.

“Of course we support cancer research,” she said. “What we want to make sure is the money that goes into the state coffers is accountable. And right now there is nothing in the state that is accountable.”

Debra Kelley, director of Advocacy and Health Initiative for the American Lung Association, California, which supports the measure. She said Jacobs’ arguments have nothing to do with Prop 29.

"You know listening to Jennifer's statements I really feel like I'm listening to the Marlboro woman," she said. "She's really spouting all of the lies and best representations that are being promulgated by the top tobacco industry."

“We have built in a lot of safeguards to protect this money from being stolen away by legislators because we understand the temptation that this represents,” Kelley added.

Kelley said the members of The California Cancer Research Act Oversight Committee will not be politicians and will oversee how the funding is doled out, and she said the state will hold yearly audits of the funding.

San Diego scientific researchers told KPBS they strongly support Prop 29 because their institutions could use the extra funding.

More than $11 million has been raised to support passage of the measure. Major donors included the American Cancer Society, Lance Armstrong Foundation, American Heart Association and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Opponents have raised more than $42 million to defeat the measure. Tobacco companies including Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds were the biggest donors.

Governor Jerry Brown booted a doctor from a state advisory panel after she appeared in one of the television ads against the measure.

The last time a cigarette tax was on the California ballot was in 2006, when Proposition 86 was narrowly defeated. That measure would have imposed an additional tax of $2.60 per pack of cigarettes.

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