Elections 2016: Proposition 56 Passed!

Every four years, our nation elects our next President. This year, there was a lot of commotion during the build up to, and after the results of, the Presidential election. FiveThirtyEight hosted half-hour to hour-long updates every day in the two weeks leading up to election day. News channels continuously updated with new projections. I remember running on a treadmill at the gym on November 8th. The screens were broadcasting CNN, FOX, and MSNBC. Every media outlet (including social media) was blowing up with news about the Presidential election, and it seems that little attention was paid to the election of our Congress members, local officials, and results for statewide propositions.

Since you have probably read dozens, if not hundreds, of posts regarding the results of our 2016 Presidential election, I am dedicating this post to the lesser-known Proposition 56. Proposition 56 was on the ballot in California on November 8th and proposed adding a $2.00 tax to each pack of cigarettes, including other tobacco products and e-cigarettes containing nicotine. This would increase the total excise tax per pack from $0.87 to $2.87. While the increase may seem like a large jump, a $0.87 cigarette pack tax is the 15th lowest in the United States. Missouri currently taxes the lowest per pack at $0.17, while New York has the highest tax per pack at $4.35.

As it turns out, Proposition 56 passed with 64% of voters voting ‘yes’! This is in spite of the fact that tobacco companies contributed nearly $70 million to the ‘No on 56’ campaign, while the ‘Yes on 56’ campaign received about half as much, at $35 million. Given that cigarette smoking been linked to various diseases, cancers, and kills more than 480,000 people each year in the U.S., I can tell you that I certainly voted ‘yes’. As a future dentist, I would be contradicting myself by supporting cigarette smoking. What happens next? The newly generated revenue from Prop 56 will help fund Medi-Cal (California’s Medicaid program) and tobacco-use prevention programs. A portion will also be allocated towards proper tax administration and enforcement, physician training, dental disease treatment and prevention, as well as a small amount to the California State Auditor to audit the funds.

If you’re interested in getting involved in politics, know that there are outlets for you as a dental student and future dentist! The American Student Dental Association (ASDA) hosts a national lobby day in the spring out in Washington D.C. There, you can meet with Congress members and other lawmakers to discuss key issues. As a dentist, you can also become a representative in your local or regional dental association. Staying up-to-date with relevant political measures can help us educate our patients and peers.

Interestingly, a similar proposition called Proposition 10 passed in 1998, which imposed a $0.50 tax on cigarette packs and other tobacco products. Prop 10 now generates approximately $500 million in tax revenue, much of which goes to fund First 5. Of note is that a number of UCLA faculty, such as Dr. James Crall, partner with First 5 to help provide dental education, supplies, and care to children under 5 years of age.

One step towards stronger, healthier smiles for all!

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