The proposal is pretty simple: Levy a $1-a-pack tax on cigarettes in California and spend most of the proceeds on medical research. Voters might base their decisions on the matter on questions as simple as whether they oppose any new taxes, or whether they're glad to see a revenue producer that, by raising the price of cigarettes, is sure to lower smoking rates.
But it's also possible that Californians will ponder some deeper questions -- chief among those is whether they want to spend the money to fund research on cancer and cardiovascular and pulmonary diseases. The plan for the cigarette tax, Proposition 29, is sure to strike many voters with its similarities to 2004's Proposition 71, which uses $3 billion in bonds to fund embryonic stem cell research. Like the 2004 initiative, Proposition 29 would create a new agency independent of state government to dole out research grants.
Of course, the two also are different in many ways. Stem cell research was getting short shrift from the federal government when Proposition 71 was passed, and the George W. Bush administration had tied researchers' hands. That gave California a chance to shine nationally; it also gave the state a chance to thumb its nose at a president that many felt was imposing his religious views on science.