According to two recent newspaper articles (1 2), the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids (TFK) is supporting a California ballot initiative to increase the state's cigarette tax by $1.50 per pack to fund health and anti-smoking programs and is opposing a California ballot initiative to increase the state's cigarette tax by $1.50 per pack to fund health and anti-smoking programs.
No -- you are reading that correctly, it's not a typographical error. TFK is listed as both a supporter of the Tobacco Tax, Disease Prevention and Children's Health Insurance Act and as an opponent of the Emergency Services and Tobacco Tax Act.
Each would increase the state cigarette tax by $1.50 per pack primarily to fund health-related government programs: the former would primarily support health insurance coverage for children and the latter would primarily support hospital emergency care services. The former allocates 9% for smoking prevention while the latter allocates 21% for tobacco prevention and control.
According to TFK: "Increasing cigarette taxes is a WIN, WIN, WIN solution for states - a health win that reduces smoking and saves lives; a fiscal win that raises revenue and reduces health care costs; and a political win that is popular with the public." It is quite clear that TFK has waged a campaign to increase state cigarette taxes, simply because the tax increase itself is an intervention that TFK supports. It is quite clear that the purpose to which the revenues are allocated is not critical to TFK's support for this policy intervention.
In fact, TFK's fact sheet implies support for cigarette taxation as a means to balance state budgets: "To balance state budgets, voters strongly prefer increasing state tobacco taxes over either other tax increases or cuts to vital state programs."
The Rest of the Story
I find the campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids' opposition to the Emergency Services and Tobacco Tax Act to be inconsistent with its expressed opinions about tobacco taxes and its campaign to increase these taxes, and I find its opposition to this Act to be highly hypocritical.
If cigarette taxes are a "WIN, WIN, WIN" solution because they reduce smoking and save lives while at the same time raising revenue and reducing health care costs, and all in a way that is popular with the public, then the Emergency Services and Tobacco Tax Act should be something that TFK supports.
Why is TFK taking the tobacco industry's side on this measure and opposing something that is clearly designed to help the children? After all, kids are the most price sensitive and this increase in the cigarette tax will, as TFK loves to say, save lives by reducing smoking among kids. It will help prevent yet another generation of kids from becoming addicted to cigarettes.
After all: "Studies, and experience in state after state, show that higher cigarette taxes are one of the most effective ways to reduce smoking among both youth and adults. Every 10 percent increase in the price of cigarettes will reduce youth smoking by about seven percent and overall cigarette consumption by about four percent."
Not only that, but the Emergency Services and Tobacco Tax Act will raise much-needed revenue to help support emergency medical care. What could be more important than emergency medical care?
And on top of all of this, the reduction in smoking will substantially reduce health care costs for the state and to boot, the public supports cigarette tax increases: "Polls conducted in numerous, diverse states throughout the country have consistently shown broad public and voter support for cigarette-tax increases." Moreover, "to balance state budgets, voters strongly prefer increasing state tobacco taxes over either other tax increases or cuts to vital state programs."
I think that TFK's opposition to the Emergency Services and Tobacco Tax Act brings into question the sincerity of its justification for tobacco tax increases. If they mean what they are saying, then supporting this ballot initiative should be a no-brainer.
The opposition of other health groups - such as the California Medical Association - to the Emergency Services ballot measure also brings their sincerity into question, I believe, but at least these groups do not have a long-documented history of campaigning for cigarette tax increases and of justifying these tax increases based simply on the fact that they will reduce cigarette consumption and save lives, with state revenue generation as an additional benefit.
Given the propaganda about cigarette taxes that TFK has put out, it is completely inconsistent with its position to oppose the $1.50 per pack cigarette tax ballot initiative in California to fund emergency health services and it is extremely hypocritical of TFK to oppose this initiative, while at the same time supporting similar initiatives in states throughout the country.
The rest of the story suggests, to me, that there simply is a lack of integrity in the leadership of the tobacco control movement. They say one thing, but do another. How can they expect to have any credibility or to be viewed as being sincere when they basically ignore months and months of propaganda they have themselves put out? You simply can't have it both ways.