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3 Valley Officials Endorse Cigarette-Tax Initiative

November 05, 1987|RICH SIMON | Times Staff Writer

Three San Fernando Valley elected officials Wednesday endorsed a proposed initiative to raise the cigarette tax by 25 cents a pack to pay for cancer research and anti-smoking programs.

State Sen. Alan Robbins (D-Van Nuys), Los Angeles County Supervisor Ed Edelman and Los Angeles City Councilman Marvin Braude announced at a City Hall news conference that they will chair the county campaign to qualify the initiative for the November, 1988, ballot. They need to gather 595,485 voters' signatures.

"Why shouldn't the people who smoke the cigarettes pay for the terrible consequences . . . of the taxpayers having to subsidize the people who are dying of emphysema?" asked Braude, a former two-pack-a-day smoker. Braude said he will ask the City Council on Friday to support the initiative.

Efforts to raise California's cigarette tax, which has remained at 10 cents a pack since 1967, have been stymied in the Legislature by heavy lobbying from the tobacco industry, a major contributor to the political campaigns of state legislators. The industry also spent millions of dollars to defeat initiatives in California that would regulate smoking.

The Tobacco Institute in Washington has said that the industry will fight any attempt to increase the taxes on cigarettes, already one of the nation's more heavily taxed products.

But California's cigarette tax is lower than most other states, Edelman said.

"We rank 44th of the 50 states in terms of the tax on cigarettes," he said. "The only states that are less are the tobacco-growing states in the South."

The initiative, supporters say, would raise $600 million a year for the research and treatment of smoking diseases and anti-smoking education. State Sen. Lloyd Connelly (D-Sacramento), the proposed initiative's author, has said that the proposal would save more than 40,000 lives by deterring Californians from smoking--particularly teen-agers who would be least able to afford a sharp increase in the price of cigarettes.

"Twenty-five cents a pack, for someone, could be $1 to $2 a week," Braude said. "That's $100 a year. For a teen-ager, that's a lot of money."

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