Don Perata, Lance Armstrong, team up on cigarette tax initiative

(March 1, 2011)

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February 28, 2011

Recently retired cyclist Lance Armstrong and former state Sen. Don Perata have teamed up against a common enemy -- cancer.

The pair kicked off a state ballot initiative campaign Monday during a news conference at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, promoting a measure that would levy an additional $1 tax on cigarettes and other tobacco products and potentially raise more than $800 million for cancer research annually, according to a report by the state Legislative Analyst's Office.

The campaign hits home for both men. Armstrong, a seven-time Tour de France winner, battled testicular cancer and has since become an activist and fundraiser for cancer research. Perata went through a prostate cancer scare in 2009, just as he launched his bid in the Oakland mayoral race.

The initiative, known as the California Cancer Research Act, received more than 433,000 signatures last year to qualify for the next statewide ballot, which is scheduled for February 2012.

If Gov. Jerry Brown wins approval from the legislature for a special election on his budget measures to be held in June, the cigarette tax initiative would go on that ballot.

The measure is supported by the American Cancer Society and the American Lung Association, but it likely will face opposition from tobacco companies.