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'Tobacco Rebellion' Opens Initiative Drive : Group Seeks 25-Cent Hike in Cigarette Prices

December 17, 1987|Associated Press

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.

Jeff Raimundo, Sacramento-based spokesman for the pro-tobacco group Californians Against Unfair Tax Increases, said he expects the initiative drive to win strong public backing until voters are educated to the measure's "flaws."

He noted that only 5%, or $32 million, would be earmarked for research, with 45%, or $295 million, targeted for health care providers and another 25% allocated to the Legislature for related uses.

Sponsors of the measure include the American Cancer Society, the American Lung Assn., the American Heart Assn., the California Medical Assn., the California Hospital Assn. and Campaign California.

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