During our last update, the vote was too close on Proposition 29 to declare a winner, but as the weeks wore on, it became clear that opponents of the measure could claim victory in what became one of the narrowest defeats of a statewide ballot measure in California's history. You’ll recall that if this initiative had passed, it would have increased the tax on tobacco to pay for cancer research. The vote count was very close, but perhaps in the end proponents couldn’t overcome the huge amounts of money spent by tobacco companies to defeat the measure.
Companies like Philip Morris spent millions of dollars on an advertising campaign against Proposition 29 that likely greatly reduced support, as there were high levels of support several months prior to the election. It is estimated that Big Tobacco spent nearly $50 million to defeat the measure. The AP notes that “The result was reminiscent a 2006 California cigarette tax measure that led by wide margins in early polling until tobacco companies spent $66 million to defeat it with ads featuring physicians.”
Many supporters of the initiative have suggested they may try again with another ballot measure in the future since the vote count was so close (and turnout was very low this primary).
In response to the loss, Lance Armstrong Foundation President Doug Ulman commented, “The defeat of this life-saving initiative is a genuine tragedy. Big Tobacco lied to voters to protect its profits and spent $50 million to ensure it can continue peddling its deadly products to California kids."
So what was the nail in the coffin for Prop 29? Other than being at a great disadvantage financially, opponents successfully raised concerns that the measure’s revenue would be not spent on research inside the state of California and that the bureaucracy it would create to distribute funds was an unappealing method.
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