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Governor Rejects Santa Monica Lawmaker's Tobacco Bill
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Convention and Visitors Bureau Santa Monica

 

By Jonathan Friedman
Associate Editor

May 6, 2016 -- Santa Monica Assemblyman Richard Bloom was the odd one out on Wednesday when his bill was the only one in a package of anti-tobacco legislation that failed to win Gov. Jerry Brown’s signature.

Bloom’s bill would have allowed counties to impose taxes on tobacco products.

“Although California has one of the lowest cigarette tax rates in the nation, I am reluctant to approve this measure in view of all the taxes being proposed for the 2016 ballot,” Brown wrote in his veto message.

Among the taxes being proposed for the November ballot is one that would place an extra $2 on every pack of cigarettes.

That proposal, which has the backing of billionaire activist Tom Steyer, is being circulated for signatures to qualify for the ballot.

Bloom’s office did not reply to The Lookout's request for comment by deadline.

The bill signed by Brown that has gotten the most attention--both locally and nationwide--is one that increases the legal smoking age from 18 to 21.

The other tobacco bills receiving the governor’s signature on Wednesday placed e-cigarettes under the same regulations as regular tobacco products, eliminated most exemptions for smoke-free workplace laws, expanded smoke-free campus laws to include more parts of schools and raised licensing fees for tobacco retailers, distributors and wholesalers.

Bloom’s bill had several opponents, including the California Chamber of Commerce, the California Retailers Association and traditional anti-tax groups.

“The opponents of this bill argue that the bill will further add to the already regressive nature of tobacco taxes,” the Office of the Senate Floor Analyses wrote in its assessment of the bill.

The analysis continues, "Opponents also argue the bill will lead to tax evasion, and smokers will move their purchases to neighboring cities and counties. Further, they argue that the bill will create massive confusion for retailers and customers.”

This is the second failure since March of a bill written by Bloom involving taxing of products deemed by some people as unhealthy.

He proposed a 2-cent-per-ounce tax on sodas and other sugary beverages in March, but soon withdrew the bill when it became apparent it did not have enough support from the Assembly Health Committee for passage (“Santa Monica Lawmaker Seeks Tax on Sugary Drinks,” May 8, 2016).

Bloom had said the bill was necessary to combat obesity, especially in children. Money raised through the tax would have funded a program to prevent and treat obesity, diabetes and heart and dental disease.


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