Tobacco Companies Make Measure 50 Campaign Most Expensive Ever

Thanks to tobacco companies, Measure 50 has become the most expensive ballot measure campaign in Oregon history, with over a month left before Election Day.

From the Oregonian:

Cigarette companies have poured a record $6.6 million into defeating a proposed tobacco tax increase, making the ballot measure campaign the most expensive in Oregon history.

"And it's only Oct. 2," said House Majority Leader Dave Hunt, D-Gladstone. "The really amazing part is, they've still got time to go."

The previous record -- for a full campaign -- was the $5.6 million that insurer Liberty Northwest spent in 2004 trying unsuccessfully to get rid of Saif Corp.

Only two statewide measures are on this year's Nov. 6 ballot: Measure 50 would raise taxes on a pack of cigarettes by 85 cents to pay for children's health insurance and other health programs. Measure 49 would revise state land-use law.

Both are expensive. As of Tuesday, state reports show more than $12 million has already been raised to influence Oregon voters.

Healthy Kids supporters have also made some large contributions, but they just can't keep up with cigarette companies:

Cigarette companies have contributed nearly all of the $6.68 million raised to defeat the measure. Reynolds, the maker of Camel cigarettes, has put in $3.3 million so far. Philip Morris USA, the maker of Marlboros, and its parent company have also put in $3.3 million, including more than $1.8 million reported Tuesday.

Supporters of Measure 50 have raised $1.5 million, less than a quarter of the tobacco kitty. Hospitals and health care companies have given more than $620,000, led by Providence Health System, which contributed $200,000.

Unions have given more than $335,000 in support of the measure, including $100,000 from the Oregon Education Association, the teachers' union.

Other large contributors include Gov. Ted Kulongoski's political action committee and the American Cancer Society, which have given $100,000 each.

Measure 50 would raise an estimated $153 million this two-year budget period and $233 million the next to provide health insurance to more than 100,000 Oregon children.

Read the rest. You can donate to Healthy Kids Oregon at their website to support Measure 50. Out of state tobacco companies continue to try to buy their way into Oregon politics. Who would have thought?


  • Jake (unverified)

    6.6 Mill?

    I really hope they don't win otherwise we will see even more money spent by big cooperations to defeat/pass ballot measures.

    Has anyone see polling on 50 lately?

  • JG Hitzert (unverified)

    I don't understand why 50 shouldn't be considered a regressive tax on some of the poorest Oregonians to pay for their children's health insurance. Most smokers are those that are too poor to afford the many different remedies that are available to the insured that assist in quiting. Why not a SUV tax on all new vehicles that get less than 17 mpg and cost over 40k. At least then we could ensure that those who were burdened would also be able to afford to carry the load?

  • Ross Williams (unverified)

    I don't understand why 50 shouldn't be considered a regressive tax on some of the poorest Oregonians to pay for their children's health insurance.

    Most of the money is going to come out of the tobacco company's pocket, which is why they are spending so much fighting it. The price people will pay for cigarettes is somewhat fixed. If the tobacco companies don't absorb the tax, they will have to accept reduced sales. And that is actually a benefit, both financial and in terms of health, to the smokers they have managed to addict to their products.

    Smoking is not a choice, its an addiction. And it is an addiction most people acquired while still children as a result of tobacco company advertising directed at them as children.

  • James X. (unverified)

    Yay, this again.

    Tobacco companies don't care about the financial welfare of their consumers. They've even raised their own prices. They oppose the tax because it reduces cigarette sales. An industry that creates products that directly lead to the death of half their consumers does not care about their consumers. Coming from the tobacco industry, the regressivity argument is a doublespeak argument.

    For anyone genuinely concerned about regressivity: Other than simply treating tobacco the same way that any other drug or consumer product is treated (generally frowning upon items that are beyond-Holocaust-numbers deadly), cigarette taxes are likely the most effective way to prevent kids from starting and getting people to quit. When tobacco is too expensive for someone, they rarely mortgage their house for their cigs or turn to crime. They cut back or quit.

    Obviously, killing off poor people is a worse regressive practive.

  • (Show?)

    JG sadi: "Most smokers are those that are too poor to afford the many different remedies that are available to the insured that assist in quiting." Where is the evidence for this?

  • JG Hitzert (unverified)

    Here is a reference in the Western Journal Of Medicine

    and one from The American Journal of Public Health

    and the San Jose Mercury News

    It seems to me that my earlier statement seems obvious. Also consider that these same working, smoking, rural and GOP voting working poor will have just another reason not to vote Democratic. I think it is unfortunate that the party faithful fall behind a piece of legislation because it in many ways it allows them to bet the shortcut odds.

  • JG Hitzert (unverified)

    As for James X,

    Your fallacious argument claim was, ironically, part of a none too clever strawman/Godwin's law argument. I would ask that you consider the additional evidence I have brought to making my claim and simply consider my point of view.

  • Kurt Chapman (unverified)

    If you think Big Tobacco is spending a lot, wait and see what happens if the do-gooders go after a tax on Micky D's.

    I'm a non-smoker who wants less smoking. I support most ant-smoking moves. This is a misguided attempt to shore up a broken healthcare system with a regressive tax. Like the national SCHIP measure, it is well-intentioned, but ill-conceived.

    And finally someone has noticed that this will be the one real issue that polarizes voted against the dems and towards the reps in the important state races.

  • Rose Wilde (unverified)

    Does anyone else see this as a campaign finance reform issue?

    Why do we tolerate this pollution of our public airwaves?

  • James X. (unverified)

    My statement was not hyperbole. Tobacco is more of a 1 billion people killed enterprise.

    And not the hamburger argument again. Fat is necessary for life. Tobacco just kills. Directly.

  • LT (unverified)

    Kurt, a friend of mine who once managed a food court believed in a fast food tax. Not much, just maybe a nickel on a hot dog or hamburger, that sort of thing. He said, "If that makes a difference in whether people can afford to eat at the food court, they should be preparing food at home---healthier and less expensive."

    But are you proposing either the next legislature or a ballot measure advocate a fast food tax to pay for health insurance for kids?

    When I recovered from pneumonia many years ago, the doctor at the last visit told me to stay far away from smokers. If someone is eating a large fatty hamburger near me, that doesn't pollute the air. And if an added tax makes anyone, but especially those under 18, think twice about buying a pack of cigarettes, that is helping health care right there.

    What should the legislature have done--say "the Republicans are in thrall to the anti-taxers and we can't get a vote on this outside of a constitutional amendment, so we'd better leave the constitution inviolate and just drop health care for kids this session"? That is what it sounds like.

    That would be the Oregon Constitution which people for many years have been complaining about as having so many such provisions already that there are "sticky notes on the Constitution".


  • CU (unverified)

    I don't know if any of you have seen the No to 50 tv ad. The ad seems to make a good point about how there has not been an amendment to the Oregon state constitution to allow for a specific tax on commercial products. They also say that the measure is poorly written, or that there is a hidden agenda behind this measure.

    To me, I want to see this measure pass to help with health and well-being of Oregonians... I am just worried that the taxes collected on these cigarettes will be put to other uses.

    Keep in mind that I do NOT smoke. I just want to learn more about this issue before I vote.

  • Zarathustra (unverified)

    What would be the result if you just left the messure blank, unchecked?

    Wouldn't that toss all their filthy lucre down the commode?

    If not, some Soc grad. student needs to be doing their thesis on the hominid compulsion to check a box stuck in front of you. Do we have a right to reject that question? Duh...

  • JG Hitzert (unverified)

    That thing about the constitution I think is a ruse. State constitutions aren't exactly the same kind of sanctified document as the US Constitution. Maybe if you were in MA or VA and ours was a seminal document written by one of the founders but there are all kinds of weird and frivolous amendments to state constitutions. Didn't they amend the Oregon Constitution for same sex marriage. Seems to me that was probably the first time the state constitution was used to take away rights. I find that more worrying or that short cut methods like taxing cigs to the exclusion of a more considerate method of raising money and paying for health care for children.

  • dddave (unverified)

    Ross writes: "Most of the money is going to come out of the tobacco company's pocket, which is why they are spending so much fighting it. The price people will pay for cigarettes is somewhat fixed." Uh, are you kidding? This is TOTALLY factually incorrect. You cant purchase untaxed cigs and bring them into the state. They have smokers by the balls, and the smokers will pay every last cent. Please.

    Stick to the facts: Cigs are legal. I don't care who you are, if the newest taxes are proposed for your legal product, you might have an opinion on that. Why don't we tax milk for this? How about a law that parents MUST provide insurance? The measure is listed to add the tax to the Oregon constitution because the chickencrap dems knew it couldn't fly in the state legislature. A cig tax should not be considered "stable" funding. If the freaking kids are so damn important, why does only 29% of the funds actually go to the cause initially? Why dont we just buy health CARE instead of insurance?

    If we just taxed dumbass ideas in this state, we could buy everyone everything they need.

    How about this for you health care tax wackos, I am sure all us conservatives would go for this: A law that says those in the private sector get the same benefits as those on the PERS system for a similar paying job? I am sure those private companies could do this easily, as it works so well for public employees.....

  • KipA (unverified)

    dddave, before posting supposed facts about where the money will go, perhaps you should actually read the text of the measure - or at least offer an explanation of where your "29%" figure comes from!

    "(5) Revenues from the taxes imposed under subsection (1) of this section are dedicated to providing health care to children, low-income adults and other medically underserved Oregonians and to tobacco use prevention and education." -

    Further, I think this seems to be a valid enough arguement in itself: "A 10 percent cigarette price increase reduces youth smoking by 6.5 percent - more than three times the 2 percent reduction in smoking among adults, according to research by the Health, Research and Policy Center at the University of Illinois, Chicago. " -

  • KipA (unverified)


    "Under Senate Bill 3, approximately 70 percent of the new tobacco tax revenue through 2011 would be allocated to the Healthy Kids Program; approximately 18 percent would be allocated to health care for low-income adults; approximately 4 percent would be allocated to rural health services and safety net clinics; and approximately 8 percent would be allocated to tobacco prevention." -

  • (Show?)

    "A law that says those in the private sector get the same benefits as those on the PERS system for a similar paying job? I am sure those private companies could do this easily, as it works so well for public employees....."

    I'm all for that, since there's no such thing as a public sector job that pays similarly to a private sector one. Which is why the benefits are better.

    If you want better benefits in the private sector, shouldn't the market take care of that? :)

  • (Show?)

    "And finally someone has noticed that this will be the one real issue that polarizes voted against the dems and towards the reps in the important state races."

    Total bullshit. A WaPo poll released this week showed SEVENTY-TWO PERCENT of Americans support SCHIP.

  • alijane (unverified)

    Measure 50 is more than a just a cigarette tax. It increases other tobacco and cigars by 30% and takes away the fifty cent cap the legislature placed on premium cigars a few years ago. Grandpa's tin of tobacco is already close to forty dollars for 12 oz. Yeah, he shouldn't smoke his pipe, but at 89 it is a small indulgence and probably won't stunt his growth.

  • Herb Dunsel (unverified)

    There's a dirty little secret the tobacco companies aren't telling you. They say that if Measure 50 passes, the money won't be enough to fund the healthy kids program - forcing state lawmakers to seek other revenue. What they don't tell you is WHY this is true and WHY they're really fearful of Measure 50.

    I'm a smoker. And, I've told friends that I actually support the passage of measure 50. And when they ask me why I'd support a measure that would increase my cigarette taxes by 70%, I give them an honest answer - "Because it won't!"

    This tax, if passed, will merely drive more and more people into the arms of the 10 Tribes of the Seneca Nation ... the only Sovereign Native American group of tobacco sellers exempt by treaty from the law requiring sellers to report customer info to state taxing agencies.

    In short, BIG TOBACCO isn't worried that measure 50 will force more people to stop smoking. They're worried that measure 50 will force more people to stop smoking cigarettes sold by BIG TOBACCO. And it also means there will not be enough revenue to support the healthy kids program ... NOT because the tax isn't high enough ... but because Oregon smokers will stop buying cigarettes sold in Oregon. The state will eventually be forced to spend more money on fruitless enforcement than it take in from the revenue stream.

    So ... go ahead, Oregon. Double my taxes. Triple my taxes. Quadruple them if you dare. The storefront price I pay for cigarettes, and the storefront price paid by a GROWING number of smoking Oregonians, will remain the same.

  • MF (unverified)

    This tax is one of those "oh goody, it won't affect us" taxes, and, as such should be stopped. And of course if this passes, smokers WILL pay the price. Do you really think the tobacco companies absorb hikes in costs? PULEEZE! They never pay the cost themselves. If anyone can prove they do, let's hear it

    This tax affects only a few and many of them will quit. I saw where a few of you cited that as a good thing. Sure it is, SO LONG AS IT ISN'T TIED TO OUR KIDS' HEALTHCARE! Tying this to their healthcare is just asking funding for their healthcare. Of course THAT is the likely outcome, judging from those folks I've talked to (they fully intend to quit rather than be the ONLY ones who have to pay).

    This is an unfair AND WORSE, unstable tax, and even though I am a Democrat and don't smoke, I am angry. I am far from the only Democrat who is angry at the party over this, either.

    Why did Democrats have to give the Republicans more ammo to use against our party? When will they learn that stupid taxes don't fix things???? Democrats promise to be fair about taxes and yet we see that, not only are they not being fair, they are not even being rational. This tax will not work and it will ALL be blamed on our party.

    Thanks alot :o{

  • mobilemousetrap (unverified)

    cu stated on Oct 4:

    I am just worried that the taxes collected on these cigarettes will be put to other uses.


    This is exactly what is happening. I went to a meeting and the question was asked, Is all of the money collected going to be used only for health care? The answer was NO. Only 70% of it will be used for health care. The other 30% will be used for roads, schools, police or whatever it's needed for.

    Also, 70% of the moneys collected the first year will be held back for one year, to be used for eligible children coming on in the future.

    I asked if this money held back is going to be put into an annuity to grow funds so only the dividends are used and the principal will always be there, since there will be a decline on the incoming money due to declining tobacco sales. The answer was NO. No annuity.

    Doesn't it seem counter productive to put in place a tax that is hoping to drive smokers to quit smoking, young people to not start smoking and to use the money for health care, wouldn't it be prudent to have this money go into an annuity so these children are covered for a long time?

    This stinks! And I don't smoke.

  • Herb Dunsel (unverified)

    Another point to ponder ... especially if you, like me, support universal health care. Is the problem of uninsured children a "societal" problem or a problem specifically related to "smokers?" If the problem is societal in nature (and it is), then a vote to lay this tax on the backs of smokers is the height of hypocrisy. Those who vote for Measure 50 might as well be saying, "Sure, I'll vote to fund the Healthy Kids program ... as long as it doesn't affect my own wallet or purse."

    It's the same thing as saying, "I support the construction of halfway houses for criminals ... as long as it isn't in MY neighborhood," or, "I support busing to achieve racial equality in all schools ... as long as MY child doesn't have to be bused."

    Smokers like me see this hypocrisy as if it was emblazoned on a big neon sign over the ballot box. It's a pity more non-smokers can't see the same sign.

  • Pavel Goberman (unverified)

    November 06, 2007 Special Election. Measures 49 and 50. I was going to vote for these measures after reading the Voters Pamphlet, but both for YES and NO spent $28 million for borring advertisements and I decided DO NOT VOTE: do NOT dictate the People to vote for - they have own brains. There is no need too much brain to run state by rubbing smockers. I smocked 15 years and last 20 years do not smoke. There is an other way to find a big money for children health insurance: Governor Kulongoski and Democratic Party raised salaries of lazy, overpaid and useless directors of state agencies to $158,000. For what? So many government employees have huge salaries up to $400,000. For what? It is a Socialist / Communist System! Cut salaries of high pay government employees up to no more than $50,000 - it would generate a huge amount of money for health insurance not for children only, but also for many adults, even parents of our soldiers fighting in Iraq. They deserve it!

    Pavel Goberman - Candidate for US Senator

  • Derek (unverified)

    I read something about polarization on this blog. How does this polarize democrats and republicans? I'm a democrat and I voted no on measure 50. Measure 50 is just a bill and it should be seen as such. Read the fine print, don't take a blue side or a red side.

  • Derek (unverified)

    Oh and... how does this sound? Measure 51 in 2008. Save the puppies for a 9% sales tax. People who buy stuff are addicted to consumption. They watch too much television and buy crap they don't need. And of course, you like puppies don't you? Well, don't you? Well save them! Vote for puppies in 2008.

  • roly0070 (unverified)
    <h2>I'm all for providing health care; I'm all for eliminating smoking. I'm voting against 50 though, because of the way it is written. They say it's written as a tax measure which, oh by the way will be used to provide health care. The reality is that it's written as a SPENDING measure, which, oh by the way, will be funded with an increase in cigarette taxes. When the economy goes sour, (which it will by next year) the spending is locked into the constitution, but when the funding comes up short, (which it will) where does the money come from? The legislature doesn't care---all they know is they get to spend it....</h2>
in the news 2007

connect with blueoregon