UC Regents endorse Perata’s tobacco tax measure

The Regents of the University of California have endorsed the tobacco-tax-for-cancer-research ballot measure co-chaired by former state Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, perhaps seeing a windfall of research dollars in their future.

In a public hearing Wednesday, Perata – a 2010 Oakland mayoral candidate who now lives in Orinda – had told the Regents’ Committee on Educational Policy how the idea for the California Cancer Research Act was born at the California Institute for Quantitative Biosciences based at UC San Francisco’s Mission Bay Campus.

Perata said that with adequate investment, groundbreaking advances in the battle against cancer would be discovered and patented in Californian laboratories like QB3, placing California at the forefront of bioscience globally while benefiting from economic production stimulated by biomedical research.

The ballot measure will appear on the June 5 presidential primary ballot. The Legislative Analysts’ Office calculates it could save more than 100,000 Californians’ lives from smoking-related deaths as well as generating over $855 million annually for medical research into cancers and heart disease, smoking education programs, and tobacco law enforcement through a $1 excise on tobacco sales, a tax that hasn’t been adjusted in California since 1998. A separate study by the University of California projects that the CCRA could save California up to $28.2 billion in healthcare costs between 2012 and 2016.

The tobacco industry is ponying up big bucks to oppose the measure.

“We know that Big Tobacco will spend gobs of cash opposing this campaign because they want to keep California cigarettes cheap in order to recruit new smokers,” Perata said in a news release today. “But as this endorsement proves, Californians understand this initiative will make our state stronger, save lives, save billions of dollars in avoidable healthcare costs, and keep California as THE place for groundbreaking medical research.”

The ballot measure’s campaign committee noted UC’s five academic medical centers and 16 health professional schools generate about 117,000 jobs in the state, $12.5 billion in contribution to gross state product and $16.7 billion in economic activity.

“With 10 National Cancer Institute-designated cancer centers, California is well positioned to accelerate the state’s legacy of innovative cancer research with the infusion of new biomedical research investments,” serial Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong, Perata’s fellow campaign chairman, said in the release. “According to Families USA, each National Institutes of Health biomedical research dollar invested in California generates $2.40 in new state business activity.”

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.