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Friday, February 18, 2011

Big Tobacco's Big Money Smokescreen to Kill The California Cancer Research Act


Big Tobacco’s Big Money Smokescreen to Kill
The California Cancer Research Act

 Cigarette barons, Philip Morris USA, create political committee in California to finance campaign against cancer research ballot measure



Sacramento, CA – The nation’s leading cigarette manufacturer, Virginia-based Philip Morris USA, formed a new Political Action Committee (“PAC”) in California today, to oppose a state ballot measure that would raise over $750 million annually for cancer research and tobacco cessation through a $1 per pack tobacco tax.


The tobacco company dumped $128,115 in contributions to the new committee in one day on February 3, as part of their latest attempt to block a measure that will reduce the number of California smokers and reduce cigarette sales in the state. The tobacco industry enters election battle lines on a huge winning streak, having successfully defeated the last fourteen (14) attempts to raise the tobacco tax in California.


The targeted ballot measure, the California Cancer Research Act, qualified for the next statewide ballot after its supporting coalition – led by major health advocacy organizations like the American Cancer Society, and cancer survivors – submitted 634,722 voter signatures to the California Secretary of State in June 2010 and will be decided by California voters on the next state-wide ballot, expected to take place in June 2011.


The initiative proposes a $1 excise tax on cigarettes with all proceeds being invested in cancer research, tobacco education and tobacco law enforcement. Independent analysts estimate that the proposal will raise $585 million dollars for cancer research during its first year. [1]


Supporting the ballot initiative, former president of the California Senate and prostate-cancer survivor, Don Perata said, “I’m not surprised Big Tobacco is starting to throw money against us. The fact is, our initiative will save lives by generating badly needed funding for cancer research, and encouraging hundreds of thousands of people to stop smoking. The measure is good for public health, but bad for companies that sell cigarettes.


Big Tobacco’s pattern is to cultivate front groups and surrogates to side with them, from business leaders to public safety organizations. It’s all part of a smokescreen to divert attention from the real issue – cigarettes and the terrible toll they take on public health. Our challenge is to shine a light on their deception.


Perata is the author and co-chair of the California Cancer Research Act campaign along with professional cycling legend and Anti-Cancer Advocate Lance Armstrong.  The campaign’s supporting coalition includes the American Cancer Society, the American Cancer Action Network, the American Lung Association in California, the American Heart Association, the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, and LIVESTRONG – the anti-cancer foundation headed Armstrong.


The last attempt to raise excise on tobacco, Proposition 86, failed in November 2006 after PACs funded by Big Tobacco spent $66 million in opposing the measure.


Philip Morris USA, a subsidiary of cigarette giant Altria Group, is the number one cigarette maker in the US and controls half the nation's cigarette market. Its Marlboro brand alone accounts for more than 40% of cigarette retail sales in the country. Its 15 other brands include Virginia Slims and Parliament, as well as discount brands Basic and L&M. Chairman Mr. Michael E. Szymanczyk received a salary of $4.28M in 2009, during a global recession.[2]



About the California Cancer Research Act:

The California Cancer Research Act will invest 98 cents out of every dollar raised in research, education and enforcement - with criminal penalties for any misuse of funds. 60 percent of all funds will go to prevention, causes and treatment of cancer and other smoking related illnesses, 20 percent will fund smoking cessation and tobacco use prevention, 15 percent will pay for facilities and equipment to support research and 3 percent will help police enforce anti-tobacco laws and stop tobacco smuggling. No more than 2 percent will be spent on administrative costs.


The California Cancer Research Act will establish a nine-member oversight committee to allocate all funds and will be comprised of three directors from California’s National Cancer Institute designated cancer centers, three UC Chancellors from the California Institute for Quantitative Biological Research, one practicing California physician with expertise in cardiovascular disease and two representatives of disease advocacy organizations.


More information available at: www.californiansforacure.org

[1] Report by the California Legislative Analysts’ Office, (January 15, 2010) Available at: Link

[2] Yahoo Finance (February 17, 2011), Available at Link

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