A resolution proposed by City Councilmember Richard Bloom in support of Proposition 86, also known as The Tobacco Tax Act of 2006, was adopted by the Santa Monica City Council at its meeting Tuesday, September 26th.

This act — which will be on the ballot Tuesday, November 7th — would increase the state’s tobacco tax by $2.60 per pack of cigarettes, nearly quadrupling the current tax of .87 cents.

If passed, the tobacco tax would go into effect January 1st.

The goal of Proposition 86 is “to reduce smoking, especially among children, and fund critical health care priorities, thereby reducing the healthcare cost burden on state and local governments, and reduce tobacco use,” city officials said.

According to the California Department of Health Services, Proposition 86 would prevent 300,000 smoking-related deaths and keep 700,000 children from becoming adult smokers.

It would also prevent nearly 180,000 deaths due to smoking among California children currently under the age of 17 and save Californians $16 billion in health care costs, proponents claim.

Additionally, the annual revenue alone from the $2.60 tobacco tax increase would be approximately $2.27 billion, according to the California Department of Health Services.

In 2007-08 — of the $2.27 billion — about $756 million would support hospital emergency services and about $367 million would provide health coverage to uninsured children.

Sponsors of Proposition 86 include the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association, the American Lung Associ- ation of California, the California Hospital Association, The Children’s Partnership and the California Emergency Nurses Association, among others.

These organ- izations sponsor Proposition 86 “because it will reduce teen smoking, save lives and help offset the costs all of us are now paying for smoking-related illnesses.”

Many emergency room doctors, nurses, community clinics and health centers also support the proposition, sponsors claim.

Opponents of Proposition 86 include the Los Angeles County Medical Association (LACMA) “because it would exempt hospitals from state and federal antitrust laws aimed at protecting patients.”

“We are deeply concerned over the provisions buried in Proposition 86 that would exempt hospitals in California from state and federal antitrust laws,” said Dr. Ralph Di Libero, president of LACMA.

“Despite our support for reducing tobacco use, we cannot support a measure that would endanger the availability of emergency and specialty medical services for patients in California.

“Proposition 86 could allow hospitals to restrict healthcare to only certain types of patients. Patients might have to travel long distances to get certain types of healthcare.”

Di Libero said that the proposition is irresponsible and would hurt access to healthcare and reduce the quality of healthcare in California.

Americans for Tax Reform, California Taxpayers’ Association, the National Taxpayers Union and the National Association of Police Organizations, among others, are also against Proposition 86.

At the Santa Monica City Council meeting, three public comments were made on Proposition 86, one by Brian Hutchins.

“I think you just have a proposition there for people to grow tobacco in the backyard,” Hutchins said. Still, he said he had “nothing against the proposition.”

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