California Senate Just Says No to Increased Tobacco Tax

Published on
August 29, 2013

After the narrow defeat of Prop 29 by California voters last year, State Senator Kevin de León introduced a bill in February to increase taxes on cigarettes to fund the state’s tobacco control program as well as improve access to health care for low-income families. The bill, SB 768, would have increased the state’s current $.87 per pack tax by $2.00, an increase that would have yielded $1.2 billion in annual revenue for the state, according to an article by California Healthline. However, the bill failed to pass out of the Senate Appropriation Committee.

Support for the bill, according to California Healthline, included the American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, Health Access California, and Service Employees International Union (SEIU). Another California Healthline article listed those in opposition of the bill: Reynolds American, California Retailers Association, California Distributors Association, California Taxpayers Association, and California Chamber of Commerce.

Below is a breakdown of contributions by supporters and opponents to winning candidates and party committees in the 2012 elections.

SB 768 Supporters and Opponents: Campaign Contributions to California Candidates and Committees


Contributions to Winning Candidates & Party Committees in 2012

American Cancer Society


American Heart Association


American Lung Association


Health Access California


California SEIU


Supporters’ Total



Reynolds American*


California Retailers Association


California Distributors Association


California Taxpayers Association


California Chamber of Commerce


Opponents’ Total


*Includes contributions from subsidiaries.

Among the supporters, only the California State Council of Service Employees contributed to legislators who were on the 2012 ballot: $331,500 to winning state candidates in 2012, and $628,500 to the California Democratic Party.

The American Cancer Society did not contribute to any candidates in 2012, though they did contribute $15 million to support the failed tobacco tax measure, Proposition 29. Also supporting Prop 29: the American Heart Association with $515,989 and the American Lung Association with $387,425.

Three of the bill’s opponents gave to lawmakers during the 2012 election. Reynolds American and its subsidiaries contributed $131,406 to winning candidates in California in the 2012 cycle, and another $17,900 to officials who were not up for re-election in 2012 (all of whom were Republican senators). The California Retailers Association contributed $53,479 to winning candidates in 2012, and $12,556 to office holders who were not up for re-election. The organization also contributed $25,000 to the California Democratic Party. The California Chamber of Commerce contributed $120,935 to winning candidates, $14,200 to politicians not up for re-election, and $170,000 to the California Democratic Party.

Organizations on record lobbying on SB 768 in the first quarter are as follows: The American Heart Association spent $37,249 on all its lobbying activity during that time, which included SB 768. The American Lung Association spent a total of $62,116, which also included SB 768. Lastly, the California SEIU reportedly spent $821,229 and the American Cancer Society spent $35,612 lobbying in the first quarter on various issues including tobacco taxes, although SB 768 is not specifically mentioned. No opponents of SB 768 are on record as lobbying against the bill in the first quarter.

Image by dannymann via Flickr