WASHINGTONBig Tobacco found itself a big loser in the November elections as voters in five states approved six statewide ballot initiatives aimed at reducing the health threats of cigarettes and other tobacco products. Voters in two other states, however, turned down anti-tobacco proposals.
Residents of three statesArizona, Nevada, and Ohioapproved measures that mandated smoke-free work environments and public places. Voters in Arizona also backed an increase in the state's tobacco tax. Florida voters approved using tobacco settlement money to support tobacco prevention programs. In South Dakota, the majority favored increasing the state's tobacco taxes to help fund tobacco prevention and other health care programs.
"Based on economic models, the two tobacco tax increases will prevent more than 50,000 kids from starting to smoke, save 23,700 lives, and save $1.2 billion in long-term health care costs," said William V. Corr, executive director of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. "The three new smoke-free laws will protect more than 19.8 million people from the serious health hazards of secondhand smoke. The increased funding for Florida's tobacco prevention program will have significant health benefits as well."
The Campaign tracked the eight ballot initiatives and the tobacco industry's efforts to defeat them, which succeeded in California and Missouri. Voters in those two states rejected initiatives to increase cigarette taxes and fund tobacco prevention and other health programs.
"Because the measures were defeated, 766,000 more kids will become smokers in California and Missouri, 330,000 more lives will be lost to tobacco-caused disease, and these two states will pay $17.5 billion more in long-term health care costs," Mr. Core said in a statement assessing the results of the balloting.
The Campaign estimated the money spent by the tobacco industry in defeating the California and Missouri ballot proposals at more than $65 million and more than $5 million, respectively. The industry's money, Mr. Corr said, "bought a barrage of deceptive television ads that misled voters about the impact of these initiatives, going so far as to claim that the initiatives did not provide enough money for tobacco prevention when, in fact, they would have given California and Missouri two of the best-funded tobacco prevention programs in the country." Nonetheless, Mr. Corr and other anti-tobacco advocates heralded the passage of the six statewide initiatives.
- Arizona. Arizona residents approved two propositions. By a 54% to 46% vote, they passed a ban on smoking in work and public places, including bars and restaurants. They also approved 53% to 47% an 80-cents-a-pack tax hike on cigarettes as well as tax increases on other tobacco products, with the money going to fund early childhood development programs. Moreover, Arizona voters rejected 57% to 43% the deceptively named Arizona Non-Smoker Protection Acta proposal backed by the tobacco industrywhich would have allowed smoking in many restaurants and places of employment and weakened existing smoke-free laws. The tobacco industry spent more than $8.5 million to support that proposal.