Prop 29: Some Thoughts for California Peeps

This post is really directed at those of us who vote in California …thanks to everyone else for indulging this private diversion!

Prop 29 adds a $1/pack cigarette tax, and will appear on next Tuesday’s ballot. This may come as a surprise, but I am voting NO on 29 and I wanted you to know why.

To  begin with, I don’t trust either side of this issue. While Big Tabacco will say and do anything for a profit and opposes 29, the American Cancer Society hasn’t always been honest with the American public either. As Barbara Brenner (one of the founders of Breast Cancer Action) says in her piece, “a pox on both their houses.” The proposition creates a new commission to oversee the distribution of funds (est. $735M/year). It cannot influence the current funding mechanisms, so it can’t move us toward a smarter, more comprehensive approach to cancer research. It can send this money out of state, providing jobs elsewhere. And it can spend up to $15M in salaries for the commission itself. Moreover, controls for reporting and consumer advocate involvement* appear to be missing.

I  know there is some potential in this proposition. More cancer research is good. More expensive cigarettes are good (unless, of course, they just fuel a black market). But those positives, for me, fail to outweigh the negatives. We can’t fund our current budget…it is the wrong time to collect more taxes and fund yet another state commission.

We need to be smarter in our research, and this isn’t the answer! It may be a good idea, but it’s not the way to do it. If we want to cure cancer, we don’t need more money, we need a comprehensive program to review research, prioritize projects, include consumer involvement in decision making, oversee the use of funds, and ensure that we see the outcomes.

Text of Prop 29 (begins p. 1, col. 2, toward the bottom)

League of Women Voters on Prop 29

*Consumer advocate involvement includes breast cancer survivors with an equal voice and vote at every point of decision-making. The Dept of Defense Breast Cancer Research Program is a guiding example of the effectiveness of this strategy.

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Val Katz
    Jun 06, 2012 @ 18:26:05

    I found your argument extremely formative but when the tobacco companies can spend $50 million to “win” their argument…we have a bigger problem! I understand your concern of the funding of a new State commission but if the tax could deter people from smoking, surely that’s the bigger picture. The future looks grim for this country with the advent of Citizen’s United…just had to share my views!


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