Each year 400,000 Americans will die from a smoking related health condition – making tobacco the number one cause of preventable death in the United States. This lethal behavior is largely driven by the bottom lines of cigarette companies who hope to downplay the real risks of smoking. Each year, the tobacco industry spends $10.5 billion ($28+ million each day) on advertising its products nationwide.

California voters most recently experienced the effect of Big Tobacco’s shameful marketing tactics through its fraudulent scheme to combat Prop. 29, a $1 per-pack tax hike on cigarette packs. In the wake of recent research revealing that price is one of the biggest factors in deterring young people from smoking, the measure planned to funnel the new tax revenue towards tobacco prevention programs and cancer research.

The tobacco industry opposed the bill, as an extra tax on cigarettes would translate to major profit losses. As a result, the tobacco industry ran a nearly $50 million campaign to turn California voters against the initiative. Through a powerful media marketing strategy, the industry managed to confuse and mislead voters about the facts surrounding Prop. 29. For instance, they bank-rolled a 30 second TV ad depicting a white-smocked doctor in an examination room who claimed that the measure would create a “huge research bureaucracy” that would send tax dollars outside of state. He continued to assure viewers that "not one penny goes to new funding for cancer treatment."

The California Medical Association denounced the ad for its disingenuous arguments and urged voters to "see past the smokescreen of Big Tobacco." In reality, 60% of the revenue from the new tax, about $441 million a year, was designated for cancer research while the rest will go toward prevention, cessation and other programs. Furthermore, the failed proposition is not all representative of California’s smoking habits, a state with one of the lowest smoking rates in the country.

Read more about Big Tobacco’s outright deception of voters here: http://www.tobaccofreekids.org/tobacco_unfiltered/post/2012_04_30_california

It is possible that this is only just the beginning. As many states are exploring similar tax-hikes it is imperative that the deep-pockets of the tobacco industry do not continue to deceive those who end up paying the true health costs of smoking through private insurance premiums and tax dollars for public medical coverage. Don’t let Big Tobacco smoke the facts! Sign the petition demanding that the industry cease its manipulative interference with efforts to control the American smoking epidemic!

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