Below is a Huffington Post article that I co-wrote with Sherry Lansing and Dr. Kristiina Vuori about a very interesting and unique opportunity for California residents this June. Typically, I’m not one to delve into the political arena, but when it comes to encouraging people to vote for something that will really make a difference in the care of people with cancer, then I’m all-in (Silver Lining).
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, smoking costs Californian taxpayers $9 billion every year in health care costs, and much more in lost productivity. This translates into smoking-caused costs of $15 per pack of cigarettes. And yet, at just 87 cents per pack, California’s tobacco tax is one of the lowest in the nation.
That doesn’t make sense and, this June, we’ll have the chance to do something about it.
On June 5, Californians will have the opportunity to pass Proposition 29, the California Cancer Research Act. By adding $1 tax per pack of cigarettes and equivalent tax on other tobacco products, Prop 29 will save an estimated 104,500 lives from premature smoking-caused deaths, prevent 228,700 children from becoming adult smokers and save Californian taxpayers an estimated $5.1 billion in long-term health costs from declines in smoking.
What’s more, passage of Prop 29 will generate $735 million per year in total revenue. This money will be used to fund life-saving research on cancer and other tobacco-related diseases, and to support smoking cessation and prevention programs. To assure these resources are invested responsibly, the proposition will create a nine-member Citizen’s Oversight Committee made up of scientists, doctors and cancer survivors.
Prop 29 Supports Life-Saving Medical Research
Opponents of Prop 29 (namely Big Tobacco) call it “wasteful spending.” We are certain that the one in two Californians who will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lives would disagree. Passing Prop 29 will allow California’s world-renowned universities, research institutes, biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies, medical doctors and advocacy groups like the American Cancer Society and the American Heart Association to accelerate the fight against cancer and other smoking-related diseases. Cancer and heart disease are the leading causes of death in California.
We are in the midst of a transformative decade in cancer research and in translating our research advances to patient benefit. Researchers around the state will use revenue from Prop 29 to unlock the secrets of how cancer develops and spreads, so we can design better diagnostics and therapeutics. Prop 29 will help us detect cancer earlier, treat tumors more effectively and ultimately save more lives.
Prop 29 Stimulates California’s Economy
In addition to saving lives and lowering health care costs, passage of Prop 29 will help stimulate the state’s economy by creating and saving jobs in California. The biotechnology industry has been a shining example of stability and growth in our state over the past several decades, and is an area we should be turning to now to help our state recover from economic decline.
Today, California is home to several of the most vibrant life-science research clusters in the world, including 10 of the country’s 66 NCI-designated cancer centers (more than any other state in the nation). The San Francisco Bay Area boasts the oldest and largest biomedical cluster in California and is a world leader in biotechnology. San Diego is known for its biopharmaceutical and medical diagnostics companies, while Orange County has a reputation for medical device inventions and Los Angeles is the place for cutting-edge cancer research and patient care.
As of 2009, the biotechnology industry employed nearly 270,000 Californians. And that number jumps to more than 783,000 jobs when we include everyone employed in academic research, bio-pharmaceuticals, diagnostics, medical devices, laboratory services and other supporting industries.
Yet, global financial woes and diminishing support from the federal government — the National Institutes of Health in particular — will negatively impact California’s biomedical industry for years to come. Passage of Prop 29 would be instrumental in further enhancing our state as a global leader in biomedicine, in enhancing our ability to retain and create jobs in the biotechnology industry, and in fully delivering on the promise of bringing new live-saving strategies to the patients who need them.
The choice is simple. Prop 29, the California Cancer Research Act, will benefit every Californian by lowering health care costs in the state, by enhancing California’s economy, and by funding life-saving research that produces new diagnostics, treatments and cures for patients.
Sherry Lansing is chairman of the University of California Board of Regents and former chairman and CEO of Paramount Pictures Motion Picture Group. She also founded The Sherry Lansing Foundation and co-founded Stand Up to Cancer (SU2C), a charitable program of the Entertainment Industry Foundation (EIF) that raises funds to accelerate the pace of groundbreaking translational research that will get new therapies to patients quickly.
Kristiina Vuori, M.D., Ph.D. is the president of Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif. and director of Sanford-Burnham’s National Cancer Institute-designated Cancer Center. She is also a member of the Stand Up to Cancer/Melanoma Research Alliance Dream Team and sits on the Board of Directors of the American Association for Cancer Research.