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California Only State To Approve Higher Tobacco Taxes On Election Day

Above: California voters snuffed out big tobacco on Election Day, by approving a $2 per pack increase in the tobacco tax.

Aired 1/11/17 on KPBS News.

Four states had measures to raise tobacco taxes on the November ballot, but only California’s Proposition 56 prevailed.

California voters snuffed out big tobacco on Election Day.

Four states had measures to raise tobacco taxes on the November ballot, but only California’s Proposition 56 prevailed.

So what made the difference in California?

Supporters of the $2-per-pack increase in the state's tobacco tax faced tough odds.

Voters had rejected the two previous attempts to raise the tax. And this time, tobacco companies ponied up more than $71 million to defeat the measure.

But supporters put together a strong coalition, that included doctors, hospitals, health plans, and teachers. They raised more than $35 million. Debra Kelley, with the American Lung Association of San Diego and Imperial Counties, said they came up with a powerful ad campaign.

“We had very effective messaging that basically asked voters, who do you trust? The tobacco industry, or your doctor, dentist, cancer society, the PTA?”

The cigarette tax hike received nearly 65 percent of the vote. It goes into effect on April 1st.

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