SAN FRANCISCO — A coalition of health and environmental groups launched a self-described "Tobacco Rebellion" on Wednesday, vowing to qualify and pass a proposed voter initiative to boost cigarette prices by a quarter a pack.
Officials of the Coalition for a Healthy California, speaking at one of eight press conferences conducted statewide, said they plan to spend about $2 million.
The measure will be placed on the November, 1988, ballot if 600,000 valid signatures are collected in the petition drive. If it is approved, the estimated $650 million a year raised from the "user tax" on cigarettes and other tobacco products would go to treatment and research of tobacco-related diseases and anti-smoking education programs.
Thirty-five statewide organizations have endorsed the measure and joined the campaign, according to coalition leaders.
$16-Million Effort Denied
A tobacco industry spokesman discounted the group's assertion that the industry plans to spend $16 million or more to defeat the initiative, calling that figure "incredibly inflated," but declining to estimate a spending amount.