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What Voters Need to Know About Prop 56

BY TOM EPSTEIN – Blue Shield of California is supporting Proposition 56 this November for a simple reason: Because smoking remains the state’s leading cause of preventable death.

Prop 56 offers a chance to do something about it. The initiative, known as the California Healthcare, Research and Prevention Tobacco Tax Act of 2016, would increase California’s cigarette tax by $2 per pack, with an equivalent increase on products like electronic cigarettes that contain nicotine derived from tobacco. Currently, California has one of the lowest tobacco tax rates of any state in the country.

Unfortunately, the tobacco companies continue to find new ways to advertise to young people, including through candy-flavored electronic cigarettes. As a result, thousands of young Californians become addicted to tobacco every year, despite broad awareness of the risks of smoking.

Research shows that taxes on tobacco reduce youth smoking rates and improve public health. That’s why Blue Shield joined a growing coalition of hospitals, doctors, dentists, labor, health plans and nonprofit health advocate organizations in supporting Prop 56.

The tobacco industry has a different a view driven by their economic self-interest, and they have the resources to put up a fight. San Jose Mercury News reports that Phillip Morris and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company have already pumped more than $56 million into the No on 56 campaign.

Tobacco companies dishonestly claim that revenue generated by the increased tobacco taxes under Prop 56 would take money from education and go to healthcare industry “special interests.” This is totally untrue. To the contrary, Prop 56 funds would:

  • Support the Medi-Cal program that serves low-income Californians

  • Increase money for smoking cessation options to help people quit

  • Fund research into cancer and tobacco related disease

  • Limit administrative spending to no more than 5 percent of the revenue generated by the tax

Most major newspapers in California have seen through the misleading tobacco industry claims and endorsed Prop 56.

To learn more about Prop 56, or to join the Save Lives Coalition, visit the

Tom Epstein is vice president of public affairs at Blue Shield of California