On May 31st, the World Health Organization marks World No Tobacco Day. This year's theme: tobacco industry interference. For evidence of that interference, we need look no further than our own backyard.
On June 5th, the California Cancer Research Act – Proposition 29 – will be voted up or down by Californians after being pilloried by the tobacco industry in a multi-million dollar statewide campaign. Prop 29 would channel hundreds of millions of dollars every year into cancer research within California. It would inject new investment and high quality jobs into California's struggling economy. And it could very possibly lead to new cures and treatments for people fighting cancer, the world's leading cause of death.
But a campaign funded by tobacco companies is spending millions on ads to mislead Californians about this life-saving initiative. Why? Prop 29 will add $1 to the cost of every pack of cigarettes sold in California, a state that currently ranks 33rd in the nation on the tobacco tax scale. So great is the power of the lobbyists and so deep are the campaign coffers that every bill or ballot initiative seeking to raise the cost of tobacco has been defeated since the last successful hike in 1988. Even though only 12 percent of Californians smoke.
I'm not a Californian myself though I consider myself a big admirer of the Golden State. I support Prop 29 as a cancer survivor, an advocate, a father and a former member of the President's Cancer Panel. During my six years on the Panel, I heard thousands of doctors, nurses, policy makers and survivors loud and clear: the single most effective thing we can do to prevent cancer is reduce tobacco use.
I also support Prop 29 because I resent the tobacco industry's ability to influence public policy in their favor – to the detriment of Californians and their state economy – over and over again.
The U.S. cancer community, including our partners at the American Cancer Society, is united in its support for this life-saving measure. And we believe that California voters will see through the tobacco industry interference being doled out in 30-second increments on their televisions day and night between now and June 5th.
Lance Armstrong is a cancer survivor,
seven-time Tour de France champion and a proud father of five. The Lance Armstrong Foundation provides free, bilingual service to cancer survivors struggling with the financial, emotional and practical effects of the disease. The Foundation advocates for public policies that benefit survivors, fund cancer research and increase access to care. Livestrong.org.