June 1, 2012

Poll Shows California Voters Favor Cigarette Tax

2012 is an election year and while parts of the country are focused on the presidential races, there´s another debate gaining traction in California. A survey poll found that a California ballot measure that would add $1 to a pack of cigarettes has a small eight point lead, with a little less than a week until the upcoming election. Results released on Thursday showed that 50 percent were in favor of Proposition 29, 42 percent were against it, and 8 percent were undecided.

Proposition 29 aims to add a tax of $1.87 to fund medical research that would focus on programming for tobacco prevention and tobacco-related diseases. The last survey done by the Field Poll was from May 21 to May 29 and the results were based off of the answers from 608 participants who will likely vote in the election. They were interviewed in both English and Spanish using landlines and mobile phones.

"With an eight-point lead it has a better than even chance of passage but it's going to be a close election," Field Poll Director Mark DiCamillo said in a Reuters Health article.

The findings from the Field Survey are similar to those found in a recent survey by the Public Policy Institute of California. The organization found that 53 percent said that they would vote for the measure, 42 percent said that they would not vote for the measure, and five percent said that they weren´t sure how they would vote. These results slightly differ from the results pooled from a survey done by the Institute in March, where 67 percent said that they would support the proposition.

There´s the possibly that increased advertising by the tobacco industry could have caused a change in the survey results. The advertising has raised doubts about who would oversee the funds raised by the proposition, how the money would be used, and if the fees would stay in California. The proposition states that a nine-member committee would manage the funds; the members include three chancellors from the University of California, three directors from cancer research institutes, two members of diseases advocacy groups related to tobacco-related diseases, and one physician from an academic medical center.

"The current Field Poll shows that voters who had already sent in a mail ballot or were planning to do so before Election Day support Prop. 29 by a ten-point margin (51 percent to 41 percent). However, support narrows to just five points among those intending to vote at their voting precinct on June 5," the survey's report said. "This suggests that the weight of campaign advertising and late decision-making is narrowing the yes side advantage and could have additional effects before all the votes are cast.”

Supporters of Proposition 29 have reiterated their support in California´s official voter information guide for the June 5 primary.

“The University of California and the California Medical Association support Prop 29 because it raises $585 million per year for research and will help California's best research institutions find cures to cancer, heart and lung disease,” wrote proponents of the measure.

On the other hand, opponents of Proposition 29 have asserted different views in the guide.

"Cancer research is important, but if we're going to spend $735 million a year, we need to have strict controls and make sure our tax dollars are spent in California. Prop 29 is flawed and deserves a ℠no´ vote,” wrote the detractors of the measure.

In the past, polls regarding measures on tobacco taxes have shown early leads in the beginning but lose traction as the election looms closer. In 2006, California´s voters rejected a ballot measure that proposed a $2.60 tax increase on packs of cigarettes. 1998 was the last year where California Voters approved a measure to increase the state´s tax on cigarettes.