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

Evening Edition

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.

Aired 5/31/12 on KPBS Midday Edition.


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

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


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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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | May 31, 2012 at 7:01 p.m. ― 4 years, 10 months ago

There have been a handful of interviews conducted on KPBS evening edition where I literally just watch with my jaw dropped because one of the guests is so ridiculous.

This was one of those interviews.

Ms. Jacobs' mouth was moving, but what was spewing from it was incoherent gibberish.

All she kept doing was babbling some generalized talking points about Sacramento that have nothing to do with this proposition like some sort of programmed robot.

The articulate woman from the ALA was logical, and talked about the specifics of the proposition, yet Ms. Jacobs could only counter with her unrelated 'Sacramento is Evil' bizarre talking points.

Has Ms. Jacobs even *read* the prop 29 details?

It's quite clear where the money goes, quite clear that administrative costs are capped at 2 cents per dollar, and quite clear that there is non-political oversight by Universities and research institutions.

I think Ms. Jacobs would have been better off just saying she's against taxes period or she's angry about the cost of her cigarette habit becoming more expensive instead of all this ridiculous jibberish about "Sacramento".

Definitely not a good reflection on this *'Americans for Prosperity*' group.

Maybe next time they can bring in a talking parrot or horse with peanut butter in his mouth.

They would at least get a more coherent argument than what this woman spewed on the air!!

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Avatar for user 'Mmikey'

Mmikey | June 1, 2012 at 9:43 a.m. ― 4 years, 10 months ago

Ms. Jacobs is a prime example of what tobacco does to the brains reasoning power when craving nicotine .

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Avatar for user 'citydweller'

citydweller | June 1, 2012 at 12:33 p.m. ― 4 years, 10 months ago

My take on the proposition is not fairly represented by either side in the debate: the tax on cigarettes makes sense in that it will curb demand. Earmarking the revenue does not make sense. The issue is not whether cancer research is a good thing (advocated by the proponents and conceded by the opponents), but whether the State of California should fund it. Given the State's failure to fund its primary responsibilities -- education, criminal justice, infrastructure -- tying up one of the few sources of additional revenue that most voters might support for a project that is not the State's first responsibility is delusional.

I say this even though I am a cancer survivor and may benefit from the results of this research. If there is a need to tie the revenue to a specific expenditure, let it offset the costs of cancer care in MediCal. But if we had a truly rational budgeting process made by trustworthy public officials, this money should go to the General Fund.

My hope is that the voters will defeat this proposition and the Governor will add the tax to the fiscal package he is presenting in November.

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Avatar for user 'rbkservices1'

rbkservices1 | June 1, 2012 at 8:41 p.m. ― 4 years, 9 months ago

Who represents the smoker in these discussions? No one. It is the smokers who will pay the tax. We should be heard. You may not agree with our views or position but we are the ones most effected. Please be fair in the future and hear views from both sides of an issue. Rod Schultz

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Avatar for user 'Mmikey'

Mmikey | June 2, 2012 at 8:02 a.m. ― 4 years, 9 months ago


your opinion i has as much value as any other kind of addict.

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Avatar for user 'SallySmothers'

SallySmothers | June 5, 2012 at 11:27 p.m. ― 4 years, 9 months ago

As "addicts" (as ^ "Mmikey" ^ calls us), smokers are going to smoke, regardless of cost. The Yes On 29 commercial that gave a specific percentage of people that would quit was just as nonsensical as Ms. Smokey up there in the clip. How on Earth can they possibly give an exact number? If high costs were a deterrent, people wouldn't take heroin and cocaine. It's an addiction!

A point that I wish the "No On 29"ers would have made: This will be a regressive tax, affecting the poor-to-working class Californians far more than the middle-to-uppers. Over the last 30 years or so, the smoking rates have dropped sharply among the richer, more well-educated folks; Not so much down here among us dregs.

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