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In California, it's Big Tobacco vs. Lance Armstrong

  • FILE - In this Friday, May 11, 2012 file photo, Cycling legend and cancer survivor Lance Armstrong attends a rally at a news conference at Children's Hospital in Los Angeles in favor of Proposition 29, a measure on the June 2012 California primary election ballot that would add a $1-per-pack tax on cigarettes. The money raised would go to cancer research projects, smoking-reduction programs and tobacco law enforcement. Fabled as a mecca for the health-conscious and fitness-obsessed, California is also one of only a few states that has not hiked its cigarette taxes in the last decade, meaning it is less expensive to light up in Los Angeles and San Francisco than many other places in the country. The tobacco industry wants to keep it that way. It has amassed nearly $50 million to kill an initiative on Tuesday’s primary ballot that is championed by cycling star Lance Armstrong and supported by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has donated $500,000 to its campaign. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

SAN FRANCISCO — Fabled as a mecca for the health-conscious and fitness-obsessed, California is also one of only a few states that has not hiked its cigarette taxes in the last decade, meaning it is less expensive to light up in Los Angeles and San Francisco than many other places in the country.

The tobacco industry wants to keep it that way.

It has amassed nearly $50 million to kill an initiative before California voters that has been championed by cycling star Lance Armstrong and supported by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has donated $500,000 to its campaign.

Marlboro-maker Altria Group Inc., RJ Reynolds and other tobacco heavyweights have spent their millions on a media blitz to snuff out Proposition 29, which would slap an additional $1-per-pack tax on cigarettes and other tobacco products to fund cancer research.

If the tax passes, California would still have only the 16th highest tax rate in the nation, at $1.87 per pack. But tobacco companies and their allies say that voter approval of an extra tax on Tuesday's primary ballot in the nation's largest cigarette market would crush owners of small businesses and spark anti-smoking measures elsewhere.


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