Prop. 29 Explained in Five, Ten or Thirty Minutes

a doctor eats an apple

Most of us don't have time for lunch, let alone time to research propositions. Photo: Getty Images

You’re busy. We get that. But you also want to be an informed voter. We definitely get that. So we put together this list of resources on Proposition 29 with your calendar in mind.

If you have five minutes:

Read the State of Health’s blog post on Prop. 29. It’s a quick look at the proposition and why it may pass or why it may fail.


The Centers for Disease Control has found increasing the price of cigarettes reduces demand. Teenagers are especially sensitive to price, so if the tax is approved, fewer of them would pick up the habit. Right now about 12 percent of Californians smoke. That rate could drop significantly if Prop 29 is approved.

If you have 10 minutes:

KQED’s Lowdown blog explains the initiative and provides context like how much other states pay in tobacco taxes, the societal cost of smoking, and who’s financing campaigns on either side of the issue.


California’s current cigarette excise tax (an excise, by the way, means a tax levied on specific commodities) is pretty low compared to most other states (18th lowest, to be precise): right now the tax here is 87 cents/pack, almost 60 cents lower than the national average and a whopping $3.50 less than in New York, whose tobacco tax is $4.35, the nation’s highest.

If you have 30 minutes or want to make good use of your time on BART:

Listen to Michael Krasny and guests discuss the initiative with Don Perata, who co-authored the initiative, and David Spady of Americans for Prosperity in California who is quoted in the tease below.


We see this as another special interest, big budget pet project. It’s the wrong measure for California at this time. And nobody argues against cancer research or that it isn’t important, in fact, as you’ve already mentioned cancer research at the federal level is being funded to the tune of billions of dollars through the National Institute for Health. So there’s a great deal of our money that’s already being invested and spent in cancer research. Our issue isn’t whether or not research is important, our issue is that this involves ballot box budgeting and it really fails to address the state’s most pressing needs.

Bonus Read: If you think you’ve made up your mind:

Read Kevin Yamamura’s take in the Sacramento Bee. He drives home the dilemma about passing a tax earmarked for a specific cause when the state’s coffers are in such turmoil.


The left-leaning California Budget Project, which has not taken a position, concluded in a policy paper, “A key policy issue raised by Proposition 29 is whether it is desirable to dedicate hard-to-raise new revenues to a specific set of programs that would be ‘locked in,’ limiting the ability of the Legislature to make changes in response to shifting economic, budget and demographic trends.”

Still have questions about Prop. 29? Leave them in the comments below.

  • Soren

    Thanks for this overview, especially how it fits into the bigger picture.