California Forum

The Conversation

Last Sunday’s Conversation pointed out that more Democrats in the California Legislature are taking campaign contributions from tobacco companies, and it didn’t used to be that way. Last year, Democratic legislators “took $203,100 directly into their campaign accounts, up from $81,200 in 2012,” and the Legislature has not raised cigarette taxes since 1994.

We asked readers to respond to the question: California’s 87-cent tax on a pack of cigarettes ranks 33rd among other states, below Arizona, Texas and Oklahoma. Should the state increase the tax on cigarettes?



Re “Big tobacco and its money make comeback” (Forum, Dan Morain, Feb. 9): The California anti-smoking crusade exists, but without the fervor and funds to counter the powerful and greedy tobacco industry. Complacency has led to the alarming scenario described in Dan Morain’s column.

As the column pointed out, tobacco money has killed legislation to raise the tobacco tax, an effective tool to decrease teen smoking. Shouldn’t California be ashamed to be lagging behind the majority of states? The bill to ban alluring flavored e-cigarettes and Internet sales languishes. Tobacco lobbyists rarely testify at hearings, but the fate of these bills reveals their influence, and money talks.

California was the tobacco control model for the world. We have slipped. Let’s regain our No. 1 position with legislation that responds to public health instead of to dirty dollars.

– Carolyn Martin, Sacramento

We all pay the price

Kudos to Dan Morain for his excellent commentary about the influence of “Big Tobacco” through campaign contributions in Sacramento.

Senate Bill 768 by state Sen. Kevin de León sought to raise the price of a pack of cigarettes by $1 but expired in the Senate last month.

Since the Proposition 29 contest in 2012, there have been three ballot measures filed to qualify for the November 2014 ballot. Not all of these efforts will succeed, but I applaud the courage, leadership and vision of those individual citizens and organizations who recognize the need to increase taxes on cigarettes.

Until they succeed, we will all keep paying the price of other people’s smoking – and the tobacco industry will keep winning while people, mostly kids, get hooked, suffer and die.

– Steve Heilig, San Francisco

Raise price by $5 or more

It amazes me that cigarettes are available because of the amount of health risks that they are responsible for. Raise the tax to $5, heck $10. Maybe then people will want to quit. Nothing is worse than walking around your favorite park and smelling the poison emitting from someone’s mouth, especially when I am with my child.

– Damon Minarich, Roseville

Price hike worked in France

I applaud The Bee for calling out politicians who opposed the proposed increase in tobacco taxes.

If The New York Times published an article reporting that nearly half a million people died last year from arsenic in the water supply, chief executive officers of water companies would be in handcuffs by the end of the day; arsenic eradication efforts would go into effect immediately.

But we have known for 50 years that tobacco kills. Nearly half a million Americans die tobacco deaths each year. Why do we tolerate it? We don’t, but our politicians do, and I think we know why.

The famous Oxford epidemiologist, Sir Richard Peto, recently presented evidence from a national study in France where the price of cigarettes trebled in 1990. By 2005, the consumption of cigarettes had dropped by half and government revenues doubled.

– Dr. Sean P. David, Palo Alto


Ryan Davis – No. Freedom is kind of a good thing, and raising the tax will just make poor people poorer.

Jana Gage – Who said that California has to have highest taxes on everything? Gov. Jerry Brown has enough tax revenues, he just has to learn how to manage it better.

Jack Washington – Why not $1?

Philip Malan – California has more people than most states, which means we put more pressure on our resources. Do it.

Linda Jackson – Yes, raise them at least $1 a pack.

Wendy Cooper – As a former smoker, I always wonder why it seems the smokers are the ones whose taxes keep going up and up, yet I hear nothing about more taxes for alcohol. Alcohol is also related to deaths in a few different ways: DUI and health. To me tax those just as much. But maybe those who come up with all these new tax propositions are drinkers.

Judy Ragsdale-Zeeb – Yes, raise it 400 percent.

Lori Conner – I am a smoker by choice. Stop taxing cigarettes. It does not stop people from smoking. It just proves the government is tax-happy, and I for one am tired of it!

Ken McCown – It merely demonstrates once again that when government tries to dictate our behavior through the tax system, people will find a way to exert their freedom. High cigarette taxes may be emotionally satisfying for the anti-smoking brigade, but it is bad public policy.

Dan Gutknecht – Probably, yes. What good cause would the revenue be applied to? Bullet train? Alternative energy? Then yes!

Cindy Clanton Marler – No. Quit punishing smokers. Put taxes on alcohol!

Karen Campbell – Raise it to $20 per pack and watch a lot of lower-income people stop the expensive habit. Then watch cancer rates drop; and health care and disability costs drop along with them.

Phillip Larrea – A cigarette tax, or any other sin tax, is just a way to confiscate money from a large enough minority to make it worthwhile. One should remember, one day insatiable government will come for you.