Voters Pass Historic $2 Tobacco Tax Increase in California While Tobacco Industry Defeats Similar Lifesaving Measures in Other states

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Statement of Christopher W. Hansen, President of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN)

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Nov. 9, 2016 – “California voters saw through the tobacco industry’s smokescreen and delivered a historic victory for public health last night with the passage of a ballot initiative that increases the state’s tobacco tax by $2 per pack. Proposition 56 not only raises the tax on cigarettes, but also includes an equivalent increase on products containing nicotine derived from tobacco, including e-cigarettes. This victory is expected to save nearly 135,000 lives and prevent more than 200,000 kids from ever becoming addicted to these deadly products. Once implemented, the state will rank 9th in the nation for their cigarette tax.

“Prop. 56 is a win-win for California. It will not only save lives and protect kids, it will save $9.22 billion in health care costs and will generate a significant amount of new revenue to support public health programs like the state’s tobacco prevention and cessation program. Research shows regular and significant tobacco tax increases are one of the most effective ways to reduce tobacco use by encouraging tobacco users to quit and preventing young people, the tobacco industry’s most price-sensitive consumers, from starting.

“Knowing the tax increase would help reduce smoking rates and deliver a negative impact on their bottom line, the tobacco industry poured more than $71 million into efforts to stop California’s Prop. 56.

“The tobacco industry was also defeated in Missouri, where they spent millions to support disingenuous ballot measures to increase the tobacco tax at levels too low to have any public health impact. ACS CAN and its partners publicly opposed the counterproductive measures that would have stonewalled future efforts to increase the price of tobacco at levels proven to save lives. Voters heard the public health message and defeated the measures.

“Public health advocates faced a setback in Colorado and North Dakota where the tobacco industry employed deceptive tactics to defeat lifesaving ballot initiatives that would have increased the price of tobacco. The increases proposed in Colorado, $1.75 per pack, and North Dakota, $1.76 per pack, would have prevented 34,800 and 5,800 kids from becoming addicted to tobacco, respectively.

“Across the four states, the tobacco industry spent $105 million to distract the public from proven health benefits in an attempt to fixate them on outright myths about these measures.

“ACS CAN congratulates California and Missouri for standing up for public health. However, the tobacco industry’s victories in Colorado (Amendment 72) and North Dakota (Measure 4) should serve as a battle cry for the rest of the nation that we cannot afford to be complacent against the predatory practices of Big Tobacco. Tobacco companies spend $9.5 billion marketing their products to youth nationwide annually. As a result, 2,500 kids pick up their first cigarette, more than 400 kids become addicted smokers and more than 1,000 people die from tobacco-related disease every day.

“Tobacco is the number one preventable cause of death and is responsible for roughly one-third of all cancer deaths nationwide. Yet, since August 2014, only three states, Nevada, Pennsylvania and, now, California, have significantly increased their tax by $1 or more per pack.

“We thank the thousands of ACS CAN volunteers and the millions of families in California, Colorado, Missouri and North Dakota impacted by cancer who worked tirelessly to protect young people and save lives from tobacco through these campaigns.

“As a nonpartisan organization advocating for public policy change on behalf of families affected by cancer, ACS CAN staff and volunteers will work to educate and engage returning and newly-elected lawmakers at all levels of government to protect, pass and implement proven cancer-fighting policies that will reduce suffering and death from this disease, including those strategies that reduce tobacco use.”

ACS CAN, the nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy affiliate of the American Cancer Society, supports evidence-based policy and legislative solutions designed to eliminate cancer as a major health problem. ACS CAN works to encourage elected officials and candidates to make cancer a top national priority. ACS CAN gives ordinary people extraordinary power to fight cancer with the training and tools they need to make their voices heard. For more information, visit



Emily Rohloff or Alissa Crispino

American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network

202.585.3296 or 202.661.5772 or

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