Editor’s note: occasionally we feature opinion pieces written in support of issue campaigns by guest bloggers. This piece comes from a PTA supporter working with our friends at the #Yeson56 campaign, which would raise the tax on tobacco products (including vaping items) in order to fund anti-smoking prevention education programs aimed at minors and their families in the state of California.
By Rose Quintana, District President, Los Angeles Tenth District PTSA, Inc.
Tobacco companies have been preying upon youth for decades, and now they are preying upon California voters by lying about Proposition 56 and its effect on education.
The bottom line: Prop 56 will protect youth and save lives, improve children’s access to healthcare and boost classroom money for tobacco prevention programs. Tobacco taxes are a proven way to keep kids from smoking, according to the World Health Organization, the Institute of Medicine, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the US Surgeon General. And if a kid doesn’t start smoking by the time they’re 21, they very likely never will. Tobacco taxes by themselves prevent kids from taking up the deadly, addictive smoking habit.
But tobacco companies’ wall-to-wall ads on radio and TV seek to paint Prop 56 as bad for schools or not doing enough for prevention.
This, along with other claims about Prop 56 made by tobacco companies, has been widely exposed as false and misleading by newspapers, fact checkers, education leaders and more. The Mercury News calls tobacco companies’ ads “scurrilous,” and “insidious,” and warned voters not to fall for their “despicable campaign” against Proposition 56.
The San Francisco Chronicle calls them “disingenuous,” “ludicrous,” and “laughable.” The Sacramento Bee calls tobacco’s ads claiming Prop 56 cheats schools out of millions “misleading” while Politifact says Big Tobacco is “blowing smoke.” Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, the California School Boards Association, California State PTA, California Faculty Association, and school districts across the state all support Prop 56 – because it’s a proven way to keep our kids from smoking.
The dozens upon dozens of people and groups involved in the education of California’s children simply would not be standing up to strenuously support Prop 56 if it somehow shortchanged our schools.
Prop 56 doesn’t take a dime from public schools. In fact, Prop 56 doubles existing funding for California public schools to educate our children about tobacco prevention and cessation.
Each year, nearly 17,000 California kids start smoking. One-third of them will eventually die from tobacco-related disease. Smoking kills over 40,000 Californians every year, more than car accidents, guns, alcohol, illegal drugs, and AIDS combined.
Prop 56 will increase California’s cigarette tax by $2 per pack, with an equivalent increase on products containing nicotine derived from tobacco, including e-cigarettes, which are skyrocketing in popularity among youth.
Over the last decade, California has spent $50 billion on tobacco-related healthcare costs. Meanwhile, tobacco companies have spent $200 million in campaign contributions to keep California’s tobacco tax low. California is one of only three states that hasn’t raised its tobacco tax since 2000.
In every state that has significantly raised its tobacco tax, smoking rates have gone down. According to the US Surgeon General, this is especially true among kids.
Two out-of-state corporations – Phillip Morris and RJ Reynolds – are alone in bankrolling opposition to Prop 56, spending $56 million and counting to protect their profits at the peril of children.
These are the same powerful tobacco corporations that have lied for decades, relentlessly marketed their products to youth and spend $9 billion every year on marketing to get people hooked.
Meanwhile, California spends $3.5 billion each year on smoking-related healthcare costs through Medi-Cal. That’s $413 per family, whether they smoke or not.
Imagine what that amount of money would mean for the education of California’s children.
Prop 56 revenue will pay for tobacco-related prevention and healthcare – especially those targeted at California’s underserved communities through Medi-Cal. In fact, one-half of all California kids get their healthcare through Medi-Cal. Prop 56 will provide those kids with better access to quality medical care and less exposure to secondhand smoke.
We must not let tobacco companies prevent California from doing what is best for our youth, our communities and our state.