Measure 50 Opposition: $4.5 Million and Counting

Healthy Kids Oregon put out a press release today, noting the obscene amount of money that has already been spent by tobacco companies opposing Measure 50. The campaign asks for Oregonians to respond to the advertising blitz by making "three clicks":

Big Tobacco is headed toward setting a spending record in Oregon. R.J. Reynolds and Philip Morris have already spent $4.5 million on television and radio, potentially the largest media buy in the history of the state of Oregon for a ballot measure.

The American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association and the American Lung Association joined with Healthy Kids Oregon today to launch a new campaign warning Oregonians about the onslaught of deceptive advertising that’s about to hit the state and urging them to fight back against the millions of dollars Big Tobacco is spending. The campaign calls on Oregonians to click three times:

1. First, click off the TV or radio whenever a tobacco ad airs;
2. Click on the Healthy Kids Oregon website (, where your tobacco ad “click off” will be counted; and
3. One more click will automatically send an electronic postcard to R.J. Reynolds and Philip Morris world headquarters telling them, “Our kids are more important than your profits. Butt out of Oregon!”

“Big Tobacco is here spending millions to protect their profits, so we’re calling on Oregonians to stand up and take action to protect the health of our kids,” said Courtni Dresser, spokesperson for the American Cancer Society and Policy Director for the Healthy Kids Oregon campaign.

Visit Healthy Kids Oregon. $4.5 million already spent by tobacco companies, and we're still 49 days out from the election. It's going to be a long, expensive 7 weeks.


  • Scott in Damascus (unverified)

    I have a feeling that they have been hitting the "O" hard with letters to the editor because the opinion page reads like big tobacco talking points 101 from concerned "readers."

    Every. Single. Day.

  • verasoie (unverified)

    Anyone have any idea how much Big Tobacco risks losing if Measure 50 passes?

    I know that Big Tobacco justifies this ad campaign (in their boardrooms) because the increased tobacco tax will lead to substantially decreased tobacco consumption in Oregon that more than compensates for the the millions they're spending, but it sure would be useful to speculate on how much that would be, just so people understand what's at play here.

    $50 million? $100million? I have no idea how much tobacco is consumed in Oregon, or how much it's expected to decrease if this passes, but I'm sure it's out there somewhere...

  • RinoWatch (unverified)

    The most "obscene" aspect of M50 is the attempt by the loser majority party to place a specific tax in the Oregon Constitution.

  • Zarathustra (unverified)

    How about truth in advertising?

    A "Healthy Kids for Oregon" initiative, linked to tobacco, should involve DHS custody for children of tobacco addicted parents!

    Personally I think all this emphasis on goats is scandalous.

    "What is obscene, today?" There's a great open posting topic.

  • John Hobbes (unverified)

    I'm doing my A levels economics thesis on the monies spent by liberals, donating towards their favourite causes, relative to the amount they give "big tobacco", buying fags.

    You're a bunch of bloody hypcrites is the basic conclusion. Bleating about their power, when it's source is yourselves. Much as with women. Read "Lysastrata", please.

  • (Show?)

    John Hobbes, an excellent point, but let me…er…rebutt.

    I am not a smoker anymore, but let's suppose I am for the sake of argument.

    I buy cigarettes, say I spent $1000 last year. Let's say 50% of that is profit, and the tobacco spends 20% of their profit on lobbying against tobacco tax increases. That's $100 of my money they spend lobbying against taxes.

    Now forget all the calculations, and look that last sentence over. You probably didn't miss a beat when reading it, but it's inaccurate.

    That's $100 of THEIR money they spent lobbying against taxes. Their choice, not mine.

    So if I turn around and give $100 to the "Yes on 50" campaign, there's no hypocricy.

    Your allegation rests on the notion that "in my interests" is fundamentally opposed to "I pay taxes." Not exactly a progressive premise.

  • Jack Hobbes (unverified)

    As far as "progressive" goes, I wasn't making s statement of policy, just of fact

    The usage distribution tends to be bimodal, if you only look at total financial outlay. There is a peak around US 1000, like yourself, and another at US 3675. The latter outnumbers the former 2:1.

    The average political contribution in the former is 50 quid, which agrees with your situation. In the latter, it averages only 5 bob. My comments were directed at the latter, as your break even scenario is not technically conterproductive. Just not progressive.

  • Zarathustra (unverified)

    Call taxing the addicted what you like and rationalize it how you will, but please don't use the word "progressive"!

    Why doesn't the ignorance tax, i.e., the lottery, ever get included with these discussions?

  • East Bank Thom (unverified)

    I wish there were a law that you couldn't contribute to a campaign or candidate unless you were qualified to vote in said race. No out of state money, no corporate cash, no union money, no PACs. Of course money = speech according to the present Supreme Court. Some people simply have more of it.

  • (Show?)

    Hobbes! I said the math! No disrespect intended to your dissertation.

    But "hypocricy" is not a mathematical concept.

    In a nutshell: I buy whatever the hell I want. This is not, fundamentally, a political or assertive act.

    I contribute money to a political campaign. This is.

    Get it?

  • (Show?)

    ignore. I said "ignore" the math. Teach me to hit the "post" button too quick.

  • Inthewoods (unverified)

    The lottery is a volunteer tax; people pay it when they have extra bling. This tax isn’t so much for the kids as it is for the Government, the Government engine here in Oregon needs more money, lots more money and this is one way of getting it. Saying its for the kids and you get an emotional reaction. We just put an extra 1 billion into the Oregon schools to help them out, yet schools are asking parents to pay for supplies, books, frogs for biology dissection, markers for white boards, yes, markers for white boards…Why, because they have NO money!!! It all goes to salaries and benefits, and more teachers not the kids. The same thing will happened with this M50 tax money. It’s not going to go to the kids because as soon as they get it they are going to say they don’t have enough money for the program, mark my word. They are doing it now in the schools, and don’t tell me the schools were already behind in funding, that just isn’t true. This tax is just a back door way of getting more taxes out of all Oregonians, if the healthy kids program starts it will not have enough money from these taxes and they are going to need more so it will be easy to say, OH! We have this money but we need this amount more to keep it going. That’s when they will tax everyone not just the smokers. If you believe this is just about taxing big tobacco you are fooling yourself! There is a much bigger plan to get more of your tax dollars into the Oregon government.

  • DanX (unverified)

    There are a few things we all seem quite confident in:

    1) A Democrat will win the Presidency 2) Democrats control Congress, and they will pick up seats 3) All Democratic frontrunners have declared they will implement Universal Healthcare for ALL.

    "ALL" includes children of Oregon. Therefore, why pass a new tax now considering these children will all be covered in a democratic administration?

    QUESTION: Will the State of Oregon resind the cig tax once a national Universal Healthplan is established?

    ANSER: NO WAY. More taxes, more taxes, more taxes!!!

  • anon (unverified)

    Interesting. Even many "supporters" of Measure 50 agree this is a bad plan. Which probably explains why the measures most aggressive backers can't do anything but harp on the fact most of the money for the opposition comes from the tobacco industry, rather than debating any of the arguments by the opposition about how bad this measure is from so many standpoints. If those arguments are on point, which they are, why should it even be acceptable for those who support Measure 50 (and overlap to a large degree those who bellyache most about the role of money in politics) to focus their campaign to date almost solely on the source of the money?

    I think the question that we should be asking is what those who gave us this bad constitutional measure, spitefully withholding health care for children unless we agree to their punitive, selective tax (SB3, Section 51), going to do to join the rest of us to provide health care for children, and everyone else for that matter, in a constructive, equitable way if this measure fails? That's what I want to hear from the proponents before voting. We do have a special session coming up in February after all, and Democrats are still in the majority, so we have another opportunity to immediately address what they have represented, and I agree, is a health care crisis.

    If they won't share their thinking in this regard because of cynical political calculations, much less have no plan or intention of doing that, we have legitimate reason to suspect their real intentions in putting forth this constitutional amendment, and only good sense dictates a vote against it. With this out of the way, those of us who are really concerned about providing health care for children and everyone else, in part by getting the corrupting influence of the private health insurance industry out of it, could get down to the serious business of doing that.

  • JTT (unverified)

    While I have been a bit frustrated with the Yeson50 campaign for the lack of substance in its campaign, that doesn't mean I think it's a bad measure...It's a great measure, empty campaign. Please, come out with something more than "Big Tobacco=Bad". I already get that, tell Oregon why health care for all kids is necessary, how smoking costs society so much ($3.50/pack in direct medical costs), and this tax on cigarettes is simply a cost recovery measure.

    I think that the Big Tobacco PR machine has found BlueOregon with the BS comments like "anon" and DanX. Please go back to the hole in the tobacco belt that you crawled out of.

  • andy (unverified)

    Is M50 the best the Dems in Salem can do? A cynical tax on a small and disliked minority? Wow, what great leadership. How about a tax on fat people next.

    Guess what, I'll be voting no on this stupid tax. And if the idiots who dreamed up this measure can't think of something better to do I'll be voting to get rid of them too.

    Why is this even on the ballot? Can't they pass any laws themselves? What is the point of sending them off to Salem if they just turn around and ask us to vote on stuff?

  • Gus Frederick (unverified)

    I received the following "Love Note" from Ben Matthews, a "Salem First Grade teacher!" Who apperntly lives at:

    867 Liberty St. NE, Salem, OR 97301

    Of course, a search from the ODE Personnel directory finds no "Ben Matthews," even going back five years. He NEVER said he was a PUBLIC First Grade teacher, so one could only guess WHICH First Grade he actually teaches at.

    I would suggest that ANYONE who receives ANYTHING from this address, (actually Mark Nelson's outfit) re-write the letter and SEND BACK the edited versions. Use the same layout, formatting and fonts...


    From the Desk of Ben Matthews First Grade Teacher

    September 14, 2007

    Dear _:

    I am a non-smoker, so when I first heard about Measure 50, the Healthy Kids Program, I thought it sounded like a great idea. It's supposed to help kids, like the ones I see every day in my first grade classroom. I'm writing you today because I was shocked to learn about the details of this plan to amend our constitution for a cigarette tax.

    While doing some research, I read an analysis of the Healthy Kids Program that the state's budget experts drafted. I was astonished to discover that over 70% of the new tax money will not be expended for the Healthy Kids Program. The legislature shouldn't call it "Healthy Kids" if less than 30% of the money will actually go to the kids.

    The legislature also set aside, as unexpended, $65 million of the new tax revenues to spend on whatever health care expense it wants. To me, that's just a blank check that will probably be written to state health care contractors like HMOs, health insurance companies or hospitals for bigger reimbursement payments.

    Another loophole you should know about is the fact that the state will hand out no-bid contracts to health insurance companies and HMOs to run most of Measure 50's new health care programs. I have to shop for the best values, and the state should too.

    As you'll read in the ballot title, Measure 50 is a constitutional amendment that puts a cigarette tax in Oregon's Constitution. It would be the first time our constitution was amended to create a tax on a single product. The legislature should not use the constitution to pass a new tax. A tobacco tax simply doesn't belong in our constitution.

    Finally, a recent independent economic analysis based on state data shows that we can't continue these new programs without additional tax dollars. The analysis shows that over the eight years after the program is fully implemented, tobacco tax revenues will decline by 2.2%, while the cost of these programs will rise 128%. The tax revenues that Measure 50 would raise won't cover the costs of the new programs. Who and what will be taxed to pay for these new programs?

    After doing some research, the decision was easy for me. Please join me in voting against Measure 50. No one should say Measure 50 is "for the kids" when it really isn't.


    Ben Matthews Salem First Grade Teacher

    Oregonians Against the Blank Check provided the resources to help me share my thoughts with you.*

    *Translation: Supporters of a major drug cartel wrote this and had me sign my name to it.

  • Red Cloud (unverified)

    If anyone would bother to read the measure, they would realize the utter falsity of the advertising. The only accurate statement is the reference to the item being taxed. None of the rest of it is there.

  • (Show?)

    Is it just me, or is there an unusually high number of trollish messages from people I've never heard of before? I'm wondering if some of that $4.5 million has gone into paid blog commenters.

  • Brent (unverified)

    For those of you in favor of the Healthy Kids Initiative, The Democratic Party of Oregon is organizing a statewide canvass this Sunday (9/23) as part of the Healthy Kids, Healthy Oregon campaign supporting Measures 49 & 50. Click here to find the canvass in your area!

  • (Show?)

    Those poooooor poooor smokers who will be FORCED to pay the same level of taxes on cigs that they do on the other side of the Columbia river which will be used to cover all Oregon kids healthcare. Cry me a fucking river and scream, and gnash teeth about how this is an evil tax on ppoor people.

    Sorry, but the pity party about the poooooor smokers being targeted with a "regressive" tax is the biggest bunch of bullshit I have read on poltical blogs outside of FreeRepublic or GodHatesFag.

  • (Show?)
    Posted by: Pete Forsyth | Sep 19, 2007 3:09:14 PM Is it just me, or is there an unusually high number of trollish messages from people I've never heard of before? I'm wondering if some of that $4.5 million has gone into paid blog commenters.

    It's not just you.

  • Fair and Balanced (unverified)

    In case there are any "real" progressives reading this thread who are confused by the arguments above, let me inject a few thoughts.

    1. The Ds in the House first tried to pass the bill outright, which is the proper course, but could not get enough R support for the required 36-vote (60%) majority. Then they tried to refer it as a statute - the next best course - and again could not get 60%. The constitutional amendment was the only way to get the bill on the ballot, requiring only 31 votes.

    2. Yes, it's true a specific tax doesn't belong in the Oregon Constitution, but there are already so many provisions there that should really be statutory that our Constitution can no longer be considered "pure". It's just too easy to amend it. (Contrast with the Federal Constitution, which requires 2/3 majorities in both houses of Congress and a majority vote in 75% of state legislatures to amend - a much higher bar than 50% of the voters in one state.)

    3. When faced with the choice between preserving the "purity" of an already polluted document and providing access to health care and health insurance to low-income children, I choose the latter.

    4. It's not a "regressive" tax if the tax doesn't recoup more than the cost to society of the consumption being taxed. And especially if the proceeds are used primarily for the benefit of lower-income people. You need to look at both sides of the equation - revenue and expenditure - before deciding whether a proposed tax is "regressive" or not.

    5. It wouldn't be "hypocritical" to both donate to the M50 campaign and also pay tobacco taxes. The tobacco companies have cynically pushed their addictive product into the market and achieved inordinate market power as a result. Whatever we can do to break down that power is a good thing.

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)

    You're a bunch of bloody hypcrites (sic) is the basic conclusion. Bleating about their power, when it's source is yourselves.

    John: Did it occur to you that your thinking might be as sloppy as your spelling? I suspect many of the bloggers on this site are non-smokers thus not a source of Big Tobacco's power. Good luck with your A-Levels. I have a hunch you'll need it.

  • alijane (unverified)

    By all means everyone vote for Measure 50! Let's tell those Washington smokers to keep the $20M of in cigarette taxes in Washington where they belong. Oregon doesn't need their stinking tax money.

    Let's punish big tobacco with fewer pack sales in Oregon, so they have to pay less to the state in Master Settlement Agreement funds. Those Washington smokers should only buy in Washington, so they get their fair share of MSA funds - Oregon doesn't need or want any extra money, it belongs in Washington, keep it there.

    What does Oregon do with the millions of dollars in MSA funds it receives every April?

    The cigarette companies are spending what is only pocket change to them to fight Measure 50. If it passes in the end it will cost them less in MSA payments in the long run. I really don't know why they are fighting it, or are they? Maybe they want it to pass.

  • (Show?)
    Posted by: alijane | Sep 19, 2007 9:14:28 PM

    Wow. The dumbest argument ever posted at BlueOregon.

  • alijane (unverified)

    It is only dumb if you don't understand the marketplace. Oregon reaps an additional $20M from WA smokers crossing the border to buy cheaper smokes. Oregon receives an additional fifty cents or so per pack sold in Oregon in MSA payments from those sales. Washington loses their excise tax revenue and MSA payments to Oregon.

    Take a drive out to Janzen Beach and count the cigarette outlets.

  • (Show?)
    Posted by: alijane | Sep 20, 2007 10:03:50 AM

    Your arguement was that Big Tobacco would reap more money in the end because of reduction of MSA paymentsfor the packs no longer sold. You were previsouly arugeing that it was a hidden windfall for big tobacco.

    BTW, where did you get your $20M figure from?

    Are you saying 40 million packs are purchased here in Oregon from Clark County WA smokers crossing the border per year?

    I find that number suspect to say the least.

  • alijane (unverified)

    Oregon's border stretches beyond Portland/Vancouver. The $20 M came from the legislative revenue office's estimate of revenue loses when this measure was in the legislature last session.

    Big tobacco is already planning of reducing pack sales with their new products, Snus. RJR and PM both have entered that market. They have a product for tobacco users in the non smoking environment. They do not pay the extra money to the states on this new product, and is reducing pack sales in other states. Maine raised their cigarette taxes and now faces a $5M dollar shortfall. They underestimated the reduction in sales from people quitting smoking or finding a price they are willing to pay via the Internet or cross border sales.

    The health care bandaid is getting stretched pretty thin, there has to be a better way to fund it than on a declining source of revenue.

  • Johnny V (unverified)

    Just stumbled across this blog- so forgive me for a few things. First, I am not all that politically astute. I neither know the history nor the good hard facts regarding measure 50. However, from a dummy perspective (that would be me) I get the following: 1) Kids need the general public to pay for their health care because their parents can't afford it 2) Smoking kills and aparently costs taxpayers money somehow (at least this is what I am getting from this blog)

    So I guess I am asking these set of questions based on what I have read here so far- 1) Suppose Measure 50 passes. Its a huge success. Kids are healthy and we all experience better health and wealth accordingly (less smokers, less burden from health costs). This all sounds great. What happens when the tax well runs dry? No more smokers. What do we tax to make up for it? Or should we assume that the "big tabacco trolls" will always be around to pay for programs that tug at our heartstrings? The trend is that smoking will cost people so much money that they will not be able to afford it- so what then?

    2) What happens if this bill passes and the actual amounts going to kids really are hard to track (i.e. blank check problem)? How will we remedy this issue? Can we afford to wait until it gets resolved?

    3) What if this program was launched by taxing any other product other than tobacco? Would it still be attractive? Nevermind what we think the benefits of killing off big tobacco might be- would we still think this program is attractive?

    I am not a smoker or from big tobacco. However, some might find me troll-like in appearence. Not much I can do about that I guess- but from what I am reading on this Blog and around other sites, it just appears to me that the only argument M50 has is that tobacco = bad.

    Can someone actually detail out for me exactly what % will be directly applied to kids? How do kids qualify for this program? Is that level acceptable for the majority of tax payers?

    This is where I am coming from. I have no problem with taxing cigarret smokers to pay for programs that provide assistance to them to stop smoking- or in some other program that lowers the general public's DIRECTLY RELATED healthcare costs. How is this program going to reduce my costs? I don't see where it will! In fact, I see in the future that I will eventaully be paying for this benefit in some other product I do enjoy.

    Apologies again- but I just don't see these items explained ANYWHERE. As a person voting on this issue, tobacco = bad just isn't convincing enough.


  • (Show?)
    Posted by: alijane | Sep 20, 2007 3:06:46 PM Oregon's border stretches beyond Portland/Vancouver.

    Well no shit. /snark

    Who ever said otherwise?

    The $20 M came from the legislative revenue office's estimate of revenue loses when this measure was in the legislature last session.

    Link please.

  • alijane (unverified)

    No need to be rude here. The question was a decline in pack sales from Clark Co. smokers? No, Washington smokers cross the border at many points to save themselves money.

    I don't have a link, like Will Rogers "I only know what I read in the newspaper" and for some reason that has stayed with me. To me $20M is a lot tax money being donated to the state of Oregon by the fine smoking citizens of Washington. I am certain the tax collectors in Washington want to see Oregon raise the cigarette taxes to match theirs so WA smokers have no reason to cross the border and buy their smokes. They keep the money at home and get the MSA payments back from Oregon too.

  • nonstupid (unverified)

    Here is Ben Matthews email address at Myers Elementary School in Salem, if anyone wants to thank him for his nice letter or inform him that Big Tobacco is using his name.

    [email protected]

  • nonstupid (unverified)

    Here is Ben Matthews email address at Myers Elementary School in Salem, if anyone wants to thank him for his nice letter or inform him that Big Tobacco is using his name.

    [email protected]

  • nonstupid (unverified)

    Here is Ben Matthews email address at Myers Elementary School in Salem, if anyone wants to thank him for his nice letter or inform him that Big Tobacco is using his name.

    [email protected]

  • nonstupid (unverified)

    Here is Ben Matthews email address at Myers Elementary School in Salem, if anyone wants to thank him for his nice letter or inform him that Big Tobacco is using his name.

    [email protected]

  • nonstupid (unverified)

    Here is Ben Matthews email address at Myers Elementary School in Salem, if anyone wants to thank him for his nice letter or inform him that Big Tobacco is using his name.

    [email protected]

  • (Show?)

    I think the question that we should be asking is what those who gave us this bad constitutional measure, spitefully withholding health care for children unless we agree to their punitive, selective tax ...

    I think the ones that gave us this measure are the republicans, who refused to vote for any tax increase for this or anything else. 1. There was not enough money in the gen'l fund to pay for this new program. 2. Not a single republican, as I recall, would vote for ANY new tax to fund the program. 3. Therefore, this is the only mechanism left that the majority could use to fund it. - you do believe in majority rule, don't you?

    So you can argue the first point: that they should have funded this instead of putting more state police on the road, or they should have funded this instead of shutting down that embarrasing mental hospital that was in the Cuckoo's Nest, or they should have killed the ethics commission or anything else they did. But the majority of our reps in the legislature thought all those things were important and so was the funding children's health care, and they took the only course the republicans couldn't obstruct.

    The interesting thing will be if Bush is successful in gutting SCHIP, will we have any kids health care left?

  • nayree (unverified)

    YES on Measure 50! Any tax on cigarettes is a step in the right direction. While we all have our share of unhealthy choices, cigarettes not only affect the smoker, but everyone around who have to unsuspectingly take in a second hand wiff. Nothing wrong with a reserve fund...everyone should have one anyway.

  • Chris (unverified)

    There is an awful lot of whining going on here. The fact of the matter is some you are smokers and you should pay exorbitant costs in order to smoke. You will at some point in the future have health issues due to smoking and become another unnecessary burden on our medical system. Spend your money on help. Quitting is the answer. Quit smoking and quit supporting tobacco.

  • clyde (unverified)

    I think a tax on toilet paper would wipe out many health woes.

  • Robert (unverified)

    How do you supporters of this measure explain David Reinhard's article in the Sunday Oregonian (10-14-07), which says by the 2009-2011 state ficial year this program will be $100 million dollars short of needed funds and getting worse in the following years. Go to the Oregonion's website and look up Dave Reinhard's article.

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