We knew it was only a matter of time before the tobacco industry unleashed a media barrage that would attempt to confuse voters about Proposition 29, the initiative on the June ballot that seeks to raise the tobacco tax to increase funding for cancer research.
After all, cigarette companies make big profits selling a product that, while potentially lethal, is highly addictive. Given that a higher tobacco tax would discourage smokers and cut into profits, tobacco companies have an enormous stake in ensuring that Proposition 29 is defeated.
And so we are now seeing the first salvo in their misinformation campaign. Watch out for a television ad that attempts to convince you that doctors actually oppose Proposition 29, which The Bee and many health groups have endorsed.
The tobacco industry had to look far and wide to find a physician willing to join this scurrilous campaign. But they have found one in Dr. La Donna Porter, who signed a ballot statement opposing Proposition 29. She now appears in an ad bemoaning that the initiative would create a "huge new research bureaucracy" with not a penny going to cancer treatment.
The latter claim is hugely misleading. The research Prop. 29 would fund could well lead to new treatments, not just for tobacco-related cancers, but all cancers. Also misleading is the suggestion that doctors don't support Prop. 29.
As Dr. James T. Hay, president of the California Medical Association, said in a statement this week, "Earlier this year, CMA's 50 member Board of Trustees voted without objection to support Prop. 29 because our organization strongly believes in protecting public health. This initiative will provide vital funding to make advances in the prevention, detection and treatment of cancer, heart disease and other smoking-related illnesses
"Past experience proves that raising cigarette taxes is successful in helping people to quit smoking, and perhaps most importantly, keeping kids from ever taking up the habit
"Sadly, it appears that Big Tobacco will say and do anything to try to confuse voters. No one should be surprised; they have been lying to the public for decades, telling one Congressional committee after another that their products were 'safe' or 'non-addictive.' "
Voters should do their research and make up their own minds on Proposition 29. But please, don't base your vote on the talking points of tobacco companies. They will use every distortion to keep selling their deadly products.