A California ballot measure that would have added a $1 tax to a pack of cigarettes was narrowly defeated in the state’s primary election Tuesday, an outcome observers attributed to a $47 million ad blitz by the tobacco industry.
The measure was defeated 50.8 percent to 49.2 percent on a day of light voter turnout across the state. The result reflected a long-standing political divide in California, with San Francisco, Silicon Valley and Bay Area counties showing heavy support for the measure, while conservative suburban counties in Southern California were overwhelmingly opposed.
Revenue from the proposed tax, estimated at $735 million in its first year, would have supported medical research on tobacco-related diseases and programs to prevent and control tobacco use.
The measure, championed, among others, by the American Cancer Society, cycling great and cancer survivor Lance Armstrong, had enjoyed a commanding lead in polls earlier in the year.
But opponents, led by tobacco giants Altria’s Philip Morris and Reynolds American Inc, vastly outspent its rivals, blanketing the airwaves in much of the state in recent weeks with a message that cast doubt on how the new tax revenues would be spent.
The result mimicked a 2006 effort at increasing tobacco taxes, which was also rejected by voters after a fierce industry-sponsored ad campaign.
The last time California voters approved a measure to increase the state’s tobacco tax was in 1998. It narrowly passed.