This Tuesday, voters will decide the fate of Proposition 29. If passed, the measure would raise cigarette taxes by a dollara pack. It has spurred debate across California including the Coachella Valley.
Those in favor of the proposition include Elle Kurpiewski, a former smoker. She puts her position simply, “If you don’t want to pay the tax don’t smoke.”
However, opponents of the measure including Palm Desert Tobacco owner Bert Bruning respond with this, “The newest way for someone to get the ballot
initiative to tax an unpopular product.”
Supporters claim the new tax will stop 200,000 kids from starting to smoke while encouraging tens of thousands of adults to quit. The tax will also raise funds for cancer research and prevention, about $800 million.
“You know it’s going to give people the help to quit,” said Kurpiewski. “For those that already have cancer, it will be able to provide the research and the funding needed to help those folks.”
The opponents are mostly funded by tobacco companies Philip Morris and RJ Reynolds. They’ve already spent millions of dollars in ads against Proposition 29.
Their main argument is the measure will not do anything to solve the state’s budget deficit. “It’s not going to benefit the state in the least bit is the bottom line,” said Bruning. “The state’s paying for it with no benefit. If you’re going to tax something, tax it in an appropriate way.”
While cigarettes are the focus of many debates, the proposition would also affect pipe tobacco and cigars.”Instead of the 32% it is in the state already, it would go to about 55%,” explained Bruning. “I think the California taxpayers are paying enough already without having to figure out a new way to spend money. “
Avid cigar smoker Larry Borses hopes there’s a middle ground. “The small guy needs to be exempted from this stuff. Put the tax on the manufacturing side, not the small business side.”
If voters pass Proposition 29 this Tuesday, the measure would go into effect in October.