A coalition made up of various public health groups and the Service Employees International Union California has launched a campaign to put a massive tax hike on the ballot in California during the 2016 election cycle. This band of tax proponents, operating under the alias “Save Lives California,” is making a major push to put a $2 per pack tobacco tax hike on the ballot.
Californians have continuously rejected similar ballot measures in past years. Most recently, in 2012, voters rejected Proposition 29, which would have increased the cigarette tax by $1 per pack.
The coalition claims that their aim is to improve the health and lives of Californians by decreasing tobacco related illnesses and deaths. The message of their campaign focuses entirely on the cigarette tax increase. However, what they don’t mention is that the language of their ballot measure includes a massive tax hike on e-cigarettes, a proven effective and healthy tobacco-free alternative to traditional cigarettes.
Under present law, California does not subject e-cigarettes to tobacco taxation, and for good reason. This ballot measure, entitled "California Healthcare, Research and Prevention Tobacco Tax Act of 2016," would treat e-cigarettes, which do not contain tobacco, as tobacco products and subject these products to open-ended and unspecified regulations as well.
By including e-cigarettes in their proposed ballot measure, the “Save Lives” coalition intends to make it more difficult and expensive for smokers who want to quit by switching to effective smoking cessation products. The evidence continues to suggest that e-cigarettes are at least 95 percent less harmful than traditional cigarettes.
If the coalition truly wanted to promote the well-being of Californians, they would not suggest an onerous tax on e-cigarettes. The group states in their mission that one of their goals is to “protect existing tobacco-tax-funded programs.” By taxing tobacco-free cessation products they certainly would keep the tax revenue flowing, as fewer smokers would be willing to make the switch to healthier products.
Hedge fund environmentalist billionaire Tom Steyer, well known for bankrolling the Democrats’ climate change campaign, has also jumped into the ring. His support for this farce shows how blatantly corrupt the coalition is.
“We need to protect our kids from the dangers of tobacco, and that means we need to stand up to tobacco companies,” Steyer preached.
But it is not the tobacco companies that this coalition is targeting. It is the low-income Californians who are most affected by tobacco tax increases, and the smokers who are trying to quit by switching to e-cigarettes that would be burdened by the proposed tax hikes.
If these proposals make it on to the ballot next year, voters should reject them again.