Cigarette tax backers say they have enough signatures to put initiative on 2012 ballot 

Backers of a state initiative that would increase cigarette taxes by $1 a pack to provide more than $500 million a year to prevent, detect and treat cancer said Thursday that they have gathered enough signatures to put it on the ballot in 2012.

When former state Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata and other backers announced their plans for the initiative late last year, they said they hoped to get enough signatures to put it before voters this fall.

But they missed that deadline and now want to place it on the ballot in November 2012. They said they gathered 634,722 signatures, well above the total that’s needed. The signatures need to be verified by the California Secretary of State’s office.

In addition to Perata, who is running for mayor of Oakland in the November election, the measure is sponsored by the American Cancer Society, the American Cancer Action Network, the American Lung Association, the American Heart Association and the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids.

At a news conference at the Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute on Wednesday, supporters said Livestrong, bicyclist Lance Armstrong’s anti-cancer foundation, also backs the measure.

David Veneziano, the chief executive of the California division of the American Cancer Society, said it’s expected that the measure will raise more than $500 million a year to help the state’s research community make advances in the prevention, detection and treatment of cancer, heart disease, stroke, emphysema and other smoking-related illnesses.

The money would go into a trust fund, and 60 percent would go toward research.

Twenty percent would fund smoking cessation efforts and campaigns to prevent tobacco use, 15 percent would pay for facilities and equipment to support research and 3 percent would help police enforce anti-tobacco laws and stop tobacco smuggling. No more than 2 percent would be spent on administrative costs.

A nine-member oversight committee made up of cancer researchers and health advocates would decide how the funds would be distributed.

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