Tony Strickland sides with tobacco companies again

(Big Tobacco generally gets what it pays for. – promoted by Brian Leubitz)

IN A MOVE THAT WILL SURPRISE absolutely nobody, State Sen. Tony Strickland (R-Moorpark) voted in committee last week against a proposal to tack a tax on cigarettes to raise about $1.2 billion annually for the state’s ailing general fund.

He also recently voted against two measures, SB 602 and SB 603, which would make it harder for minors to buy cigarettes.

The senator joined two other Republicans in voting no on SB 600, despite the fact that polls, such as one conducted after the May vote and another done in April by Field Research Inc. say an overwhelming majority of state residents favor an increase in tobacco taxes and don’t want to see drastic cuts to health-care programs for low-income and disabled residents and children.

In the last 10 years, tobacco companies have spent millions in California to keep taxes on tobacco products here among the lowest in the nation. Strickland alone has been the recipient of a whopping $91,550 in tobacco contributions since he entered politics.

According to, California’s tobacco tax rate of 87 cents per pack is 32nd in the nation. Rhode Island is No. 1 with $3.46 a pack. Some city governments in other areas of the U.S. have imposed their own taxes as well.

The bill, co authored by Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima) and Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) has earmarked the revenue to go toward the general fund, lung cancer research, tobacco cessation and control, school-based anti-smoking programs and tobacco enforcement efforts.  SB 600 is sponsored by the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association and the American Lung Association.

Besides generating much-needed revenue, the bill is expected to discourage smoking among youth, according to a press release issued by Padilla.

“California needs to do more to keep tobacco away from kids,” Padilla said.  “With every 10 percent increase in the price of cigarettes, youth smoking is reduced by about seven percent and overall cigarette consumption by about four percent. Raising the tobacco tax reduces youth smoking,” he added.

The bill’s co-sponsor, the American Cancer Society, argues that the  increase is long overdue and since California’s last  tobacco tax increase, 44 states have increased their  tobacco taxes. The American Heart Association, also a  co-sponsor, argues that this bill will help reduce heart disease, which is the No. 1 killer in the United  States.

Assemblymember Tom Torlakson (D-Antioch) has introduced a similar bill, AB 89.

STRICKLAND HAS A LONG HISTORY of siding with Big Tobacco on legislation, especially when it comes to sales of tobacco products to minors. Beyond the recent votes against bills to curb youth smoking, while in the Assembly he voted against allowing the Department of Health Services to conduct stings on businesses selling tobacco to minors. It passed into law anyway. He also voted against restricting non face-to-face sales of cigarettes. The measure was signed into law by Schwarzenegger.

The Ventura County Republican Party has been well funded by tobacco dollars as well, with $50,000 deposited into its account in May of 2008 by Altria, the parent company of Philip Morris.

Other Ventura County tobacco donations include $28,650 for Assembly member Audra Strickland (R-Moorpark), $20,900 for Assembly member Cameron Smyth (R-Santa Clarita), and $18,900 for Sen. George Runner (R-Lancaster). None of the current Ventura County Democratic legislators have accepted tobacco money.

Watch to see how all these politicians vote when the bills come before them.

SB 600 is opposed by California Chamber of Commerce, California Black Chamber of Commerce, the Black Chamber of Commerce of the San Fernando Valley, the Assn. for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs, the California Taxpayers Assn. and the Neighborhood Market Assn. All these groups have received tobacco contributions, according to

Of the two senators who sided with Strickland in the Senate Health Committee, both have also accepted tobacco contributions. Sen. Dave Cox (R-Fair Oaks) accepted $26,800 and Sen. Sam Aanestad (R-Grass Valley) took $10,100.

Marie Lakin is a community activist and writes the Making Waves blog for the Ventura County Star

4 thoughts on “Tony Strickland sides with tobacco companies again”

  1. Cigarettes currently burn up 20% of my parents’ income. My mom tries quitting about every month – she can’t. She’s probably called the California Smokers Helpline a hundred times. She’s tried nicotine gum, patches, substituting with various foods – nothing will allow her to quit.

    Increasing taxes like this will only drive my parents and families like them further and further into debt.

    You can’t balance the budget on the back of a behavior tax.  

  2. In the long run, California should not be dependent on taxing “addiction”: not alcohol, tobacco, or gambling. Even ordinary sales taxes are too vulnerable to the ups and downs of “disposable income”.

    But if the State is in a crisis such as this, Stony Trickland shouldn’t be turning down a tax on a proven health hazard while community health clinics are forced to close.

  3. It is getting a little tiring the ways california is trying to come up with to raise money.  Cig taxes are probably ineffective because people will quit at some point, demand is simply not as inelastic as one might think.  in addition, the ability to get cigarettes on the black market, like almost anything else, will tend to decrease the revenues.  

    the main thing california has going for it is the weather and the magnet that that is to draw in people.  make it possible for corporations to produce goods here, and you can probably continue the welfare state.  the problem is that the special interests that want the welfare state are too “pure” – just as they want government to provide services in a wide range, they want government to tax and trouble business in a wide range.

    like me, they are pure, i believe the state should have nothing to do with business beyong ensuring no race discrimination or unsafe working conditions and no more, and government should only help those who cannot help themselves.  Similarly, government should keep its hands off marriage and abortion and let people do what ever the f they please.    

    I think this budget debacle will prove people like me correct and may lead to a way for one of the parties to capitalize on this missed voter bloc.  

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