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California Split on Proposition 29 to Raise Tax on Cigarettes

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) -- Proposition 29, California’s statewide referendum to raise the tax on cigarettes by $1 per by pack, currently has voters evenly divided.

With roughly 34 percent of precincts reporting, Californians were split down the middle -- with 50.4 percent favoring the tax and 49.6 percent opposing.

California has not raised taxes on cigarettes in 14 years.  Currently the cigarette tax in the state is 87 cents, below the national average of $1.46, according to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

It’s estimated that if passed the tax would raise $735 million per year, according to the nonpartisan California Legislative Analyst’s Office.  That amount will likely decrease in time, as more smokers are expected to quit the habit because of the cost increase.

However, that money would not go towards eliminating some of the state’s $16 billion deficit.  Instead, the proceeds would fund cancer research.

The ballot measure has drawn a lot of financial attention leading up to Tuesday’s vote.  Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds have spent close to $46 million in ads opposing the hike.

On the pro-hike side, anti-tobacco advocates haven’t spent as much -- around $3 million on advertising -- but the referendum had high profile support from people like Lance Armstrong and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who donated $500,000 to the cause.

The vote was expected to be close, as recent polling had shown voters favoring the measure by a narrow majority.  The close results signal a sizable decrease in support over the past several months, when a solid majority of voters favored Prop 29, polling showed.

The drop in support is likely due, in part, to the tobacco industry ad blitz.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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