Tobacco tax fight going down to the wire

The tobacco industry, fighting the attempt to raise cigarette taxes by a $1 a pack, has poured more than $42 million into their campaign and money continues to come in. Backers of the levy, led by a national health coalition, have spent nearly $9 million.

Financial disclosure records on file with the state show that on Thursday, R.J. Reynolds reported a $1.59 million contribution to the anti-Proposition 29 campaign. On the same day, the American Snuff Company gave $250,000 and the Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Company donated $164,000.

In the past three weeks alone, the tobacco industry has contributed about $17 million to the anti-tax effort.

Thus far, tobacco interests and their allies have donated nearly $42.6 million, an amount that is all but certain to rise as the June 5 Election Day nears. Most of the money has paid for television advertisements attacking the proposed tax.

Eight donations since the campaign began were for $1 million or more, including an $8.92 million contribution on May 4, a $7 million donation on Feb. 14 and a $5 million contribution on April 4.

Proposition 29 would raise the per-pack tax on cigarettes by $1, making the total per-pack tax $1.87. There would be tax hikes on other tobacco taxes as well. The money raised, about $735 million annually, would be used to finance cancer research and stop-smoking programs, among other efforts.

The supporters of Proposition 29, led by the American Cancer Society and the American Lung Association, have spent some $8.92 million. Donations included $1.5 million from the foundation of bicyclist Lance Armstrong, a cancer survivor, and $500,000 from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The health coalition has donated more than half of the pro-tax contributions, about $5.5 million.

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