LOS ANGELES — Early election returns showed Californians divided Tuesday on whether to slap an additional $1-per-pack tax on cigarettes and other tobacco products to fund cancer research.

With 8 percent of precincts reporting, Proposition 29 was eking out a narrow lead with 52 percent of the vote.

The attempt to increase cigarettes taxes in the nation's most populous state has attracted nationwide attention, with tobacco companies helping to raise $47 million to quash the effort and celebrities like cycling legend Lance Armstrong urging voters to support it.

Tobacco taxes have been proven to reduce smoking. But opponents say the initiative would create an unaccountable bureaucracy and hurt the economy by sending tax money raised in California to other states.

An extra tax in the nation's most populous state also could mean major losses for tobacco companies.

Voter support for the initiative began falling this spring after the opposition campaign launched a flurry of radio and television commercials, one of which featured a Central Valley physician.

The Public Policy Institute of California found that support for the initiative dropped from 67 percent in March to 53 percent by late May.

Industry and anti-tax groups say the initiative could impose a future burden on taxpayers and could send research dollars out of state because it does not dictate where the money must be spent.

Supporters insist the tax revenue would stay in California and create jobs. They say tobacco companies are inventing arguments to obscure their true motive – safeguarding profits.

The tax would generate about $735 million a year in revenue, according to the independent legislative analyst's office.

Armstrong and a coalition of anti-smoking groups raised about $18 million to bolster the measure. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg gave $500,000 to the campaign to help offset the industry donations.

At polling places around the state Tuesday, voters on both side of the issue expressed strong convictions.

At a sleepy poll site in Long Beach, attorney Susan Hyman cast her ballot for a new tobacco tax without hesitation.

"I think that we should aggressively discourage smoking – make it less convenient, make it more expensive," said Hyman, a Democrat.

At a nearly abandoned polling site at a parochial school in the Los Angeles area, Craig Jerpseth, 43, said he's voting against anything or anyone who might mean more taxes.

"I hope we don't get any more taxes. That's pretty much it," said the Glendale nurse.

A slew of newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times, have opposed the measure while proclaiming their reluctance to side with tobacco companies. They argue that the revenue should go to the state, which Gov. Jerry Brown announced last month now faces a deficit of $16 billion.

With a smoking rate of 12.1 percent, California has not raised these taxes since 2000. If the measure passes, California would still have only the 16th highest tax rate in the nation.

Tobacco companies spent $66 million to defeat another tobacco tax measure in 2006.

Videos and commercials for and against Proposition 29.
Loading Slideshow...
  • Stand Up to Big Tobacco -- Yes on Prop 29

    On June 5, Vote Yes on Proposition 29. Video Narration: Lance Armstrong and LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. One click to share on FB: on.fb.me One click to share on Twitter: bit.ly Like on Facebook: www.facebook.com Pledge your support: californiansforacure.org Credits: Film produced by Portal A Director: Kai Hasson DP: Matt Clarke

  • Understanding Proposition 29 -- June 2012 California Ballot

    Imposes Additional Tax on Cigarettes for Cancer Research. What is this prop about? The League of Women Voters of Cupertino-Sunnyvale provides an analysis.

  • BeePolitical CA Proposition 29 - Tobacco Tax for Cancer Research Act (June 5, 2012)

    Learn about the upcoming June 5 California Ballot Proposition 29 - Tobacco Tax for Cancer Research Act: Initiative Statute Starring Eric Roberts as "Bee". BeePolitical is not affiliated with any political party and its service is strictly nonpartisan and unbiased in its interpretations based upon the values of integrity, ethics, candor, trust, objectivity, and a steadfast commitment to a well-informed voting population.

  • LIVESTRONG Leaders Vote "YES" on Prop 29

    LIVESTRONG Leaders from California talk about why they will vote YES on Proposition 29 this June.

  • Prop 29 Announcement

    Diablo Valley Oncology Supports Tobacco Tax PLEASANT HILL, CA (February 1, 2012) -- Diablo Valley Oncology (DVO) announced today its endorsement of the California Cancer Research Act (CCRA)-Proposition 29, a statewide ballot initiative that, if passed, would generate funds for cancer research in the state as well as tobacco prevention and cessation programs through a new a $1-per-pack state tax on cigarettes. DVO joins a coalition of groups -- co-chaired by LIVESTRONG founder Lance Armstrong and former State Senator Don Perata, and including the American Cancer Society, American Lung Association, American Heart Association, the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, Stand Up To Cancer, and others -- working on CCRA, which could direct almost $600 million a year into research on cancer and tobacco-related illnesses. "Medical research is very expensive," said Matthew Sirott, MD, an Oncologist and CEO of Diablo Valley Oncology. "The CCRA will provide a much-needed source of funds for researchers working on all types of cigarette related cancers. Plus, the dollars will stay in California." said Sirott. More than 140000 Californians will be diagnosed with cancer this year -- 16 cases every hour -- and more than 54000 will die from it. The goal of the Diablo Valley Oncology is to change those dire odds by accelerating critical cancer research that will get new treatments to patients quickly and save lives. "The CCRA plan for funding cancer research makes sense," said Sandy Goldberg <b>...</b>

  • No on Proposition 29

    Stop the $735 Million Tax Hike!

  • The People behind the NO-on-29 Campaign: Do You Trust Them?

    These are the same people responsible for the NO on PROP 29 campaign. They wrote and paid for the No-On-29 TV and Radio ads. Share on Facebook: on.fb.me Share on Twitter: bit.ly

  • Yes on Proposition 29 Launch

    The Prop 29 Launch: 22 Rallies, 22 Cities, one message: you either side with Big Tobacco or you support cancer research, want to save lives, and keep kids from smoking. There is no middle ground. Vote Yes on Prop 29!

  • proposition 29 california ad

    smoking is bad

  • California Supports Big Tobacco [PROP 29 OFFICIAL VIDEO]

    On June 5, Will You Stand Up for Big Tobacco? CaliforniaVsBigTobacco.com The choice is simple Yes on Proposition 29 is a $1 fee on cigarettes to support cancer research, save lives, and keep kids from smoking. No on Proposition 29 is bankrolled with $40 million from Big Tobacco (why hello Philip Morris). [SPREAD THE WORD] Share on FB: on.fb.me Share on Twitter: bit.ly #BigTobaccoLovesYou [CREDITS] Created by: Portal A [portal-a.com Director: Kai Hasson DP: Jackson Myers Editor: Cinesaurus Original Score: Joachim Horsley [FROM THE LAWYERS] Yes on 29 - Californians for a Cure, Sponsored by the American Cancer Society California Division, Inc., American Lung Association in California, American Heart Association and Cancer Research Doctors. Major funding by Lance Armstrong Foundation and American Cancer Society California Division, Inc. Keywords: Proposition 29 Prop 29 Yes on 29 Yes on Prop 29 [PRESS ROUNDUP] "Watch this video. It just might be the most refreshing campaign ad we've seen to date." - SF Weekly (Hilarious Campaign Video Explains Why California Should Smoke) "A political campaign in California aims to increase the price of cigarettes by one dollar and use the proceeds to fund cancer research. They've released this hilarious video on Tuesday to get the word out." - Mashable (Campaign Takes on Big Tobacco -- By Supporting It) "... Polling suggests Prop 29 may pass. As for the ad, our verdict: It's a fun, sharp way to make a point..." - The Atlantic (Thank You For <b>...</b>