Anti-Tobacco Efforts Gain Steam

At the same time that a new study out of Massachusetts reveals that tobacco companies are steadily increasing nicotine levels in cigarettes, the fight to limit the health impacts of tobacco is gaining new steam. Ballot measures will be considered in eight states this fall regarding tobacco. And in Virginia, where tobacco is king, Governor Tim Kaine is considering a ban on smoking in state buildings.

Big Tobacco is on one hand among the easiest targets of progressive campaigns -- the industry profits from death and public smoking creates an enormous nuisance for the majority, non-smoking portion of the population. On the other hand, the industry can rally massive spending. According to the Christian Science Monitor, a single tobacco company is spending forty million dollars fighting the initiatives this fall.

Given that Tim Kaine is picking a fight on tobacco's native soil, one might predict a tough fight for him. But his public musings of whether state buildings should prohibit smoking was foreshadowed by passage in the Virginia Senate of a ban of smoking in virtually all public areas -- including private businesses. While that bill went into defeat in the House of Delegates, it drew bipartisan support.

Meanwhile, the eight ballot measures advancing this fall are a record for the anti-tobacco movement. Among the measures:

  • Arizona -- Supporters have qualified an initiative to prohibit smoking in virtually all public places with enforcement provided by a $.02 per pack tax on cigarettes. Limited exceptions to the ban exist.
  • California -- A coalition of public health organizations is backing Proposition 86, which would increase tobacco taxes by $2.60 a pack, under a recommendation from the CDC.
  • Florida -- Issue 4 in Florida devotes 15% of the state's tobacco settlement to fighting tobacco and preventing kids from ever adopting the habit.
  • Idaho -- A referendum from the legislature seeks public approval to use money from the tobacco settlement to create a permanent endowment for the state and protect an on-going anti-tobacco fund in Idaho.
  • Missouri -- Supporters of a tobacco tax are fighting in court over whether they filed enough signatures. The Secretary of State says the measure fell 274 signatures short of the 23,527 needed to qualify. Supporters say valid signatures were not counted.
  • Nevada -- Voters may have the opportunity to consider two measures: a stricter, public health-backed measure to would ban smoking in many places and a business-backed alternative keeping smoking legal in more locations.
  • South Dakota -- Measure 2 increases South Dakota's cigarette tax by a dollar per pack and increases wholesale tobacco taxes simultaneously.
  • Washington -- Initiative 901 prohibits smoking in restaurants, bars, and other public spaces.

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