Prop. 56 campaign blasts Big Tobacco

In the final countdown to the November election, the Yes on Prop. 56 campaign to increase California's tobacco tax is gathering major endorsements and strongly fighting back against Big Tobacco's dishonest advertising.  

The California State PTA, the California Faculty Association, the California State Association of Counties and dozens of business organizations have joined the growing coalition supporting the measure. The campaign is also receiving overwhelming support from media outlets, including endorsements (as of early September) from the editorial boards of the San Francisco Chronicle, San Jose Mercury News, Monterey Herald and Santa Cruz Sentinel, which issued strong statements about the deceitful tactics employed by Big Tobacco to fight Proposition 56.

The San Francisco Chronicle called out Big Tobacco for "trying, ever so ludicrously, to cast Prop. 56 as a 'special interest tax grab' by insurance companies," and affirmed that, in fact, the measure "stipulates that 80 percent of the Medi-Cal funding must go to patient care."

Proposition 56 generates revenue for critical state health care programs such as Medi-Cal and Denti-Cal, which are significantly underfunded despite the fact that one-third of Californians now rely on these programs for health coverage.

The Chronicle described other claims from the tobacco industry as "laughable" and "disingenuous." State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, another endorser, recently issued a public letter that blasts tobacco companies for their "false and misleading contention" that the proposition takes money from schools.

"Make no mistake, Proposition 56 will not divert a dime away from schools," Torlakson said. "Rather, it will raise revenues for school-based tobacco prevention and intervention programs. These claims are not only preposterous, they are insulting to those of us committed to the
education and well-being of California's children," Torlakson added, while the California School Boards Association stated, "Prop. 56 protects school funding while helping to keep our kids from getting hooked on deadly, addictive tobacco."

The Sacramento Bee's political fact-checker, PoliGRAPH, analyzed a recent radio ad by the "No" campaign and concluded, "The tobacco industry is omitting significant information." Similarly, the fact-checking website PolitiFact, in "Big Tobacco blowing smoke in claim about California's Prop. 56" observed that no money would be taken from schools under the proposition. The Yes on 56 campaign sent a cease-and-desist letter to broadcasters over the ad.

The Legislative Analyst's Office estimates that Proposition 56 would add approximately $20 million in new funding for comprehensive anti-tobacco instruction and cessation efforts in classrooms.

Additionally, the No on 56 campaign (which is funded entirely by tobacco companies) has made duplicitous claims that the measure doesn't help smokers enough. In fact, higher tobacco taxes have been proven to reduce tobacco use. Moreover, Proposition 56 will more than triple funding for the state tobacco control program. Also, improving access to dentists and other health care professionals is key to communicating the dangers of tobacco to patients. Dentists and other providers are often the first, or sometimes only, line of communication and counseling for many patients when it comes to tobacco use.

Safeguards such as independent audits and strict caps on overhead spending and administrative costs are also built into the measure to ensure transparency and accountability.

Vote-by-mail begins Oct. 10, grassroots efforts continue

With little more than a month to go before election day, the campaign encourages Proposition 56 advocates to continue with their grassroots efforts. Dentists and dental students can contact their local component dental societies, CDA student representatives, specialty groups and ethnic societies for materials, including lab coat cards, buttons and stickers. Supporters can also download materials, such as posters, on the campaign page at cda.org. CDA asks that supporters share the materials with colleagues, patients and friends and explain how this measure will save lives and improve California's health care system.

If passed, Proposition 56 will raise the state's tax on tobacco products (now among the lowest in the nation) by $2 — from 87 cents per pack of cigarettes to $2.87 per pack. An equivalent increase will apply to all products containing nicotine derived from tobacco (but not tobacco cessation devices), which would apply the tax to electronic cigarettes for the first time. E-cigarette use by teens is increasing rapidly and teens who smoke e-cigarettes are twice as likely to smoke traditional cigarettes.

In addition to funding for health care programs, Proposition 56 will also generate revenue for cessation and research programs, and allocate $30 million for the state's oral health program overseen by the new state dental director, an unprecedented dedicated funding source.

Voting by mail begins Oct. 10. See the campaign timeline below for other critical dates.

  • For more information about the tax initiative and the Yes on 56 campaign, visit yeson56.org.

Campaign timeline:

  • Oct. 10: Vote-by-mail ballots begin.
  • Oct. 24: Voter registration deadline.
  • Nov. 1: Vote-by-mail request deadline.
  • Nov. 8: General election and postmark deadline for vote-by-mail ballot.

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