Prop 29 Loses Due to Big Tobacco's Money and Lies

The primary elections across the country have been intriguing. The one that steals the show is the battle for recall in Wisconsin, but other things are happening around the country — other very important things.

Take, for example, California. Some pundits on PolicyMic have been gracious enough to mention the bipartisan push that my state is now testing. I think this is a great idea for a state that mirrors the gridlock in Washington. However, if one watches television in California there is one issue that has dominated air time on the tube: Proposition 29.

Proposition 29 would have effectively taxed cigarettes by a dollar more per pack, a hefty price to pay for the bad habit. This new money would have gone to cancer research. It would have also been a big blow to tobacco companies, and they knew it.

Big tobacco spent millions ($47 million) of dollars in order to defeat this proposition, which they might do successfully by a very slim margin.

But here is what I wonder: why would people not support this proposition? It taxes a product that, when used as directed, causes death. Think about it. Any other product that does this is immediately taken off shelves and the lawsuits begin. Even though the Yes on 29 campaign did a great job of framing this issue, they still lost. In one of their more effective ads, they
start by asking the viewers who they trust, big tobacco or the American Heart Association, the American Lung Association, and the American Cancer Society. This seems like a no-brainer, right?

I think the answer can be found in the misleading nature of the No on 29 ads. The No on 29 ads made it seem as if this was a new tax for everyone, not just smokers. They also made it seem like the tax money would immediately leave California for any frivolous reason this “new
bureaucracy” deemed important. Finally, they claimed that this new tax would not in any way fund cancer treatment. And this is true. It would not fund cancer treatment. It would fund
cancer research. And if we think about that, we might see why money going out of state would actually be a good thing given that many outstanding research facilities exist outside of
California.

Yet again, however, we see money might win out over reason.