Posted by Mark J. Miller on June 6, 2012 11:16 AM
Lance Armstrong has beaten cancer. For seven straight years, he beat every top cyclist in the world in the Tour de France. He’s also beaten every drug test he’s ever taken. But he coudn't beat Big Tobacco.
In tandem with the American Cancer Society, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and others, Armstrong was a proponent Proposition 29, a proposed $1-a-pack hike in taxes on cigarettes that would have raised millions of dollars for cancer research projects. Except that Californians narrowly voted it down on Tuesday. Naturally, the proposed tax was vigorously opposed by tobacco companies, "who dramatically outspent" supporters of the bill as Forbes notes.
Armstrong leveraged his personal brand and platform as a healthy living advocate (via Livestrong) to help lobby California to hike up its cigarette prices, even changing his Twitter avatar to the "Yes on 29" logo. The Golden State is generally thought of as bastion of liberal politics so it would seem that tobacco would have been a target long ago. But California has lagged behind other states in hiking up the prices that consumers have to pay for their smokes, according to CBS News.
Proposition 29 on the primary ballot in California would have added an extra dollar to each pack of cigarettes sold, which anti-smoking advocates say would help a few people decide to give up on the nicotine sticks. The extra money would go to cancer research. However, big tobacco companies such as Altria Group Inc. and RJ Reynolds together coughed up $50 million in order to fight the proposition, CBS noted. New York's billionaire mayor, in constrast, had donated $500,000.
Adding a dollar would make California’s cigarette tax only $1.87 a pack, 16th in the nation, but the big tobacco companies are saying that the change would really hurt smaller business. "We all know that Big Tobacco has poured tens of millions in this campaign saying, `Don't tax us any more,"' said Armstrong to CBS head of the vote. "But the fact of the matter is the product they sell leads to about $9 billion a year in health care costs for California. I think if this passes, other states will follow."