May 24, 2012 / 4:21 PM / 5 years ago

Support for Calif. tobacco tax hike falls off

SAN FRANCISCO, May 23 (Reuters) - Support for a California measure that would increase the state’s tax on a pack of cigarettes by $1 has dropped sharply two weeks before the June 5 vote, a survey said on Thursday.

The survey by the Public Policy Institute of California found 53 percent of likely voters said they will vote yes on the measure - down from 67 percent in March. The survey found 42 percent said they will vote no and 5 percent were undecided.

The measure would increase California’s tax on a pack of cigarettes to $1.87 to fund medical research around tobacco use and efforts aimed at curtailing it.

“One would have to assume that the ‘no’ campaign has been successful in raising doubts about this particular measure,” said Mark Baldassare, president and chief executive of the Public Policy Institute.

Nearly $41 million, mostly from the tobacco industry, is going to the campaign to defeat Proposition 29 while supporters of the campaign have raised $11.1 million, including $1.5 million from cancer survivor and cycling champion Lance Armstrong’s foundation and $500,000 from New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, according to the MapLight Voter Guide.

Opponents have been chipping away at support for the measure with advertising that claims it would establish an unaccountable bureaucracy.

Tobacco taxes in California have not been increased by voters since 1998, when they approved a ballot measure raising the tax on a pack of cigarettes by 50 cents to fund smoking prevention and childhood development programs.

“Sixty-two percent in this same poll said the government wastes a lot of money,” Baldassare said. “A well-funded opposition can pretty easily raise doubts even when it’s a tax increase that’s relatively popular with the voters.”

Asked a general question about views on increasing taxes on cigarette purchases, 63 percent of likely voters said they are in favor and 33 percent are opposed, Baldassare noted.

Findings of the institute’s survey are based on a telephone survey of 2,002 California adult residents from May 14 through May 20. The sampling error is plus or minus 4.2 percent for 894 likely voters surveyed. (Reporting By Jim Christie; Editing by Kenneth Barry)

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