We’re less than a month away from the June 5th California primary, and one of the most hotly contested issues is Proposition 29.
Prop 29 is seemingly relatively simple. If the majority of voters vote 'yes,' the state will raise taxes on tobacco products. For instance, the tax on a pack of cigarettes would jump from 87 cents to $1.87.
But, it’s that one dollar that’s sparking serious debate. Now, that debate is taking place over the airwaves.
Opponents of Prop 29 had released multiple commercials by the time those in favor of Prop 29 released their first commercial.
You can view those ads on the “No on Proposition 29” website. The latest commercial, entitled “Lab Jobs,” was released earlier this week.
Those commercials seek to refute the main selling point of those in favor of passing 29 – that is, the claim that new tobacco taxes will help fund research into cures for cancer and other tobacco-related diseases.
The ads argue Prop 29 will instead create more bureaucracy and does not guarantee that money raised via the tax hike will not necessarily go toward the research it’s supposed to.
But Tuesday, proponents joined the fight taking place on television after they released a commercial of their own that aired first in the Bay Area.
The commercial is entitled “Smokescreen” and can be viewed at the Californians for a Cure site (Yes on 29).
In the new ad in favor of Proposition 29 passing, proponents argue previous ads aired by those against 29 were simply bankrolled by big tobacco companies.
The ad points out that Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds have heavily funded 'No on 29' advertisements.
The new ad tries to drive home the claim that large tobacco companies are afraid an increase in the price of tobacco products will cut into their profits.
One of the sponsors of that ad was the American Cancer Society.
“I encourage everyone to vote 'yes' on Prop 29 because it will save lives, definitely,” said Patsy Romero with the local chapter of the American Cancer Society. “We need to fight against big tobacco.”
But, more than just big tobacco is against Prop 29. Some of the other opponents are business organizations including some in Bakersfield. For instance, the 7-Eleven Franchise Association of Bakersfield and the Greater Bakersfield Chamber of Commerce are also urging voters to vote 'no' on 29.
The Chamber is concerned a hike in the price of tobacco will hurt local businesses by forcing customers to buy tobacco elsewhere.
"There's everything potentially from a black market, sales from out of the area, out of state, because it's an additional expense other places,” said Debbie Moreno, President of the Greater Bakersfield Chamber of Commerce.
Meanwhile, supporters of Prop 29 argue back, saying an increase in the cost of tobacco could reduce the number of people who start smoking, including children.
“Bottom line, we need to stop our kids from smoking,” said Romero. “I mean, we need to do that. And, when you think about one-third of all cancer deaths being related to tobacco…we can do something about it.”
The two sides have four more weeks to argue back and forth until you, the voter, get the final say at the ballot box June 5th.