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Oregon Healthcare Funded by Tobacco Tax, Ballot Measure 50 (2007)

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Oregon Ballot Measure 50 was on the November 2007 general election ballot in Oregon as a legislatively-referred constitutional amendment. It was defeated.[1]

The Democratic majority in the Oregon Legislature sought to pass the increase through legislative action. Democratic lawmakers didn't have the 3/5 majority needed in Oregon to pass tax increases, but they did have enough votes to place the measure before the state's voters as a ballot measure.[2]

The measure was a proposed amendment to the state's constitution, increasing the state tax on cigarettes by 84.5 cents per pack (up from $1.18). Revenue generated from this increase was designed to help fund healthcare ("Healthy Kids Program") for Oregon children and fund anti-smoking programs. Estimates were that the tax would have raised an additional $153 million in the first two-year budget period after it passed and $233 million in the subsequent taxing biennium. Approximately 117,000 Oregon children were affected by the "Healthy Kids Program" that would have been the beneficiary of the funds from the tax increase. The tax increase would have gone into the state constitution.[2][3]

Election results

Oregon Measure 50 (2007)
Defeatedd No686,47059.25%
Yes 472,063 40.75%
Election results from Oregon Blue Book website, accessed December 13, 2013

Text of measure

Ballot title

The official ballot title was:

Amends Constitution: Dedicates Funds to Provide Healthcare for Children, Fund Tobacco Prevention, Through Increased Tobacco Tax[4][5]


The following summary of Measure 50 was taken from Project Vote Smart website:

This measure increases the tobacco tax and dedicates the new revenue to providing health care for children, low-income adults and other medically under-served Oregonians, and to funding tobacco prevention and education programs. The measure increases the tax on cigarettes by 84.5 cents per pack, and increases the tax on other tobacco products. The measure will fund the Healthy Kids Program created by the 2007 legislature to provide affordable health care for uninsured children. The measure will fund tobacco prevention programs, safety net clinics, rural health care and health care for Oregon's lowest income families and individuals through the Oregon Health Plan. If the measure does not pass, these health care programs will not be expanded, and the Healthy Kids Program will not become law.[6][5]



The official committee supporting the measure was called "Yes on the Healthy Kids Plan." As of early September, this group had received just over $482,000 in donations.[7]

Donations included $50,000 from BlueCross, $50,000 from Doctors for Healthy Communities, $50,000 from Providence Health, $43,000 from the Healthy Communities Coalition and $50,000 from PeaceHealth.[7]

Arguments for

Supporters of Measure 50 argued that:

  • The tax will bring Oregon cigarette taxes into line with cigarette taxes in the neighboring state of Washington.
  • When children are insured through the "Healthy Kids Program" funded by the proposed cigarette tax, taxpayers will save money on emergency room visits by those who are currently uninsured
  • A broad coalition of Oregon organizations support the measure
  • It will guarantee health care for 100,000 uninsured Oregon children
  • It will reduce tobacco-related healthcare costs
  • "Big target(ing) our children as their next generation of customers."
  • Raising cigarette taxes lowers the number of smokers and improves public health.[8]



The official committee opposing the measure was called "Oregonians Against the Blank Check." It launched statewide television ads on September 5 to encourage voters to reject the cigarette tax.[9]

As of September 5, 2007, Oregonians Against the Blank Check had received $1,793,707.73 in donations. Contributions from R.J. Reynolds, the tobacco company, exceededed $1.7 million. Reynolds was reported as willing to put $3 million altogether into the campaign to defeat 50.[10]

R.J. Reynolds, as of September 28, had spent over $4.5 million dollars on negative advertisements for the Oregon Ballot Measure 50. Measure 50 would had imposed a 84.5 cent tax on cigarettes. One of the allegations of the ads was that none of the proposed money would be spent on children's health care, which the proponents Healthy Kids Oregon said was a flat out lie.[11]

Another organization, "Stop the Measure 50 Tax Hike," reported receiving contributions in excess of $1.4 million through September 2007. This includes a donation of $1.3 million from Phillip Morris, the tobacco company.[10]

Arguments against

Opponents of Measure 50 argued that:

  • Most of the money from the new tax won't go to children's health insurance as the measure's supporters claim
  • The new tax will be written into the state constitution
  • Insurance companies will get millions of dollars in state business without a competitive bid.
  • It's unfair to ask "the slim percentage of Oregon smokers to solely foot the bill for universal health insurance for uninsured children."[12]
  • Smoker Dianne Stiles makes the fairness argument when she says, "I'm not going to quit smoking, but I don't think I should have to pay so damn much for my cigarettes. It's not fair."[13][14]


Altria, the parent company of Philip Morris, filed an ultimately unsuccessful lawsuit against Measure 50 on the grounds that it violated the single-subject rule.[15]

Perspective of NTU

Measure 50 would have boosted the state cigarette tax from the current $1.18 per pack to $2.025 per pack. Proceeds would have been funneled toward healthcare for uninsured children and smoking prevention programs, but the impact of the tax on cross-border sales could have resulted in lower-than-expected revenues, with California, Idaho, and Nevada levying significantly lower cigarette taxes.[16]

See also

External links

Suggest a link


  1. National Conference of State Legislatures, "Ballot Measures Database," accessed March 10, 2015 (Select "Oregon," "Tax & Revenue," and "2007" in database menu)
  2. 2.0 2.1 Oregon Live, "Senate sends tobacco tax, Healthy Kids Plan to voters," June 15, 2007
  3. Oregon Live, "Tobacco tax for health care loses," November 6, 2007
  4. Oregon Blue Book website, "Initiative, Referendum and Recall: 2006-2010," accessed December 13, 2013
  5. 5.0 5.1 Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
  6. Project Vote Smart, "Oregon Ballot Measure - Measure 50," accessed December 13, 2013
  7. 7.0 7.1 Oregon Secretary of State, "Transaction Search Results: 'Yes On Healthy Kids Plan'," accessed March 10, 2015
  8. Health Care in Oregon, "Measure 50: Know the Facts," archived August 31, 2011
  9. Oregon Live, "UPDATED: R.J. Reynolds launches first ad against Measure 50," September 5, 2007
  10. 10.0 10.1 Oregon Secretary of State, "Transaction Search Results: Oregonians Against a Blank Check," accessed March 10, 2015
  11. Oregon Daily Emerald, "R.J. Reynolds spends $4.5 million on anti-Measure 50 advertisements," archived September 28, 2007
  12., "Heat to turn up on Nov. ballot measures," September 2, 2007
  13., "Tobacco ready to snuff tax with cash," September 4, 2007
  14. Parenting Banter, "Oregon: Tobacco Tax Measure," September 5, 2007
  15. OPB, "Big Tobacco Heads To Courtroom Over Measure 50," August 30, 2007
  16. National Taxpayers Union, "2007 Ballot Guide," October 24, 2007