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California voters weigh $1 per pack cigarette tax

LOS ANGELES — Voters on Tuesday were deciding whether to approve a California tobacco tax that has been the target of a multimillion-dollar opposition campaign.

Proposition 29, championed by cycling legend and cancer survivor Lance Armstrong, would impose a $1-per-pack tax on cigarettes and other tobacco products to raise money for cancer research, smoking-reduction programs and tobacco law enforcement.

Tobacco taxes have been proven to reduce smoking. Supporters of the initiative say the additional tax would help longtime smokers quit and prevent thousands of teenagers from taking up the habit.

Opponents say the initiative would create an unaccountable bureaucracy and hurt the economy by sending tax money raised in California to other states.

An extra tax in the nation's most populous state also could mean major losses for tobacco companies such as Altria Group Inc. and Reynolds American Inc. Tobacco companies have contributed most of the nearly $50 million raised to defeat Proposition 29. Industry and antitax groups say the initiative could impose a future burden on taxpayers if the bureaucracy it creates cannot be supported as cigarette tax revenue declines.

Supporters say tobacco companies are inventing arguments to obscure their true motive — safeguarding profits.

The tax would generate about $735 million a year in revenue, according to the independent legislative analyst's office.

Armstrong and a coalition of antismoking groups raised about one-fourth as much money as the initiative's opponents. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg gave $500,000 to the campaign to help offset the industry donations.

California voters weigh $1 per pack cigarette tax 06/05/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 5, 2012 11:23pm]
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