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Billionaire Steyer To Fund California Cigarette Tax Effort


California voters have rejected the last two tobacco tax measures they’ve seen on statewide ballots. But anti-tobacco groups hope the third time will be the charm thanks to some new financial firepower to counter industry opposition.

They've submitted yet another initiative, this one for the November 2016 ballot. It would raise the tax on cigarettes by two dollars a pack – and start taxing e-cigarettes too.

“We think this is a classic David and Goliath issue,” says billionaire Democratic activist Tom Steyer, quite possibly the richest David in the history of this metaphor. He says he’ll put his money up against the tobacco industry.

“We are going to do what we have to do to protect the kids from the dangers of tobacco,” Steyer says.

Supporters must gather more than 360,000 valid voter signatures to place the initiative on the ballot.

The industry has successfully fought off repeated attempts – in the Legislature and on the ballot. California hasn’t raised the cigarette tax since 1998. 

Tobacco company Altria declined comment except to say it’s reviewing the measure.

 Election 2016

Ben Adler

Capitol Bureau Chief

Capitol Bureau Chief Ben Adler first became a public radio listener in the car on his way to preschool – though not necessarily by choice. Now, he leads Capital Public Radio’s state Capitol coverage, which airs on NPR stations across California.  Read Full Bio 

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