The campaign to raise the tobacco tax in Massachusetts

Am J Public Health. 1997 Jun;87(6):968-73. doi: 10.2105/ajph.87.6.968.


Objectives: Question 1 raised the Massachusetts state tobacco tax to fund tobacco education programs. This paper examines the process of qualifying and passing Question 1.

Methods: Information was gathered from internal memoranda, meeting minutes, newspaper articles, internal documents, letters, newsletters, news and press releases, and personal interviews. Data about campaign contributions were obtained from the Massachusetts Office of Campaign and Political Finance.

Results: Three factors help explain why Question 1 passed: (1) the policy environment was favorable because of the social unacceptability of smoking; (2) the activists assembled a large coalition of supporters; and (3) the activists countered industry claims that the new tax would hurt small business and lower-income smokers and would be wasted by the legislature. The ballot initiative passed despite the industry's $7 million campaign to defeat it.

Conclusions: The apparent influence of the tobacco industry on the legislature was the driving force behind the decision of public health activists to qualify Question 1. Moving policy-making out of the legislature into the public arena widened the scope of conflict and enabled public health activists to win.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • American Cancer Society
  • Humans
  • Massachusetts
  • Taxes / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Tobacco Industry / economics
  • Tobacco Industry / legislation & jurisprudence*