Voters Approve Six of Eight State Anti-tobacco Initiatives

December 1, 2006

Big 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.

WASHINGTON—Big 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 states—Arizona, Nevada, and Ohio—approved 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 Act—a proposal backed by the tobacco industry—which 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.

  • Florida. In Florida, the voters approved a requirement by a 61% to 39% margin requiring that the legislature spend 15% of the state's annual funds from the tobacco settlement agreement for tobacco prevention and cessation programs. As a result, Mr. Corr commented, Florida will restore funding to what was once one of the country's top tobacco prevention programs.

  • Nevada. By a 54% to 46% vote, Nevada will require that work and public places be smoke-free, with the exception of casino gambling areas and bars that do not serve food. Nevada voters also gave local governments the discretion to enact stronger smoke-free laws for their communities.

  • Ohio. Ohio residents voted 58% to 42% in favor of smoke-free work and public places, including restaurants and bars. They rejected a tobacco-backed proposal called Smoke Less Ohio by a vote of 64% to 36%. The tobacco industry spent more than $5.4 million to promote this initiative.

  • South Dakota. In South Dakota, voters approved a proposal to raise the state's cigarette tax by $1 a pack by 61% to 39%. The initiative also increased the tax on other tobacco products by 10% to 35% of the wholesale price. Revenue from the new tobacco taxes will help fund tobacco prevention and cessation programs, property tax relief, education, and health care in the state.

"With the addition of Arizona and Ohio, 16 states, Puerto Rico, and Washington, DC, have now approved smoke-free laws that include restaurants and bars," Mr. Corr said.

Several local communities also approved or upheld local smoke-free laws, including Baytown, Texas; Mankato, Minnesota; and Appleton, Wisconsin. Moreover, voters in Maryland and New Hampshire, whose state legislatures will consider statewide smoke-free workplace laws in 2007, defeated several incumbent state senators who had opposed such bills and elected candidates who favored the legislation.

"Between the primaries and the general election, three such senators were defeated in New Hampshire, where the smoke-free bill failed by one vote earlier this year, and two were defeated in Maryland," Mr. Corr said.