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Recurring Themes

The story of the battle over tobacco control in California has several recurring universal themes.

First, although health promotion and medical care have a logical connection, there has always been a tension between them in the allocation of tax dollars. In the battles over the Proposition 99 revenues, the existence of an a priori agreement between those involved in health promotion and those involved in medical care did little to curtail these battles. Moreover, the financial and political interests of organized medicine often had more in common with the tobacco industry than the public health groups,[18][19] who had been marginal players in California politics before Proposition 99 passed. Despite the fact that these groups successfully defeated the tobacco industry in a major electoral contest to pass Proposition 99, it was hard for them to understand their power and wield it after the election.

Second, it is easiest to make policy in areas where there is a clear consensus on how to achieve the program's goals. Before Proposition 99, no one had ever run a large-scale tobacco control program and no one knew exactly how to do it. In contrast, everyone knew how to spend money on direct medical services. This difference, combined with the lack of precedent for mounting a prevention program of the magnitude of the one created by Proposition 99, complicated the health advocates' task. The absence of a proven approach to reduce tobacco use could have been mitigated with a long time frame to develop and implement the program and a careful evaluation process. Politicians, however, who tend to rely


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on short schedules and temporary settlements, did not allow enough time for such a process, even though Proposition 99's tobacco control program was breaking new ground. This situation led anti-tobacco advocates to make early compromises that would come back to haunt them.

Third, programs tend to remain in place once established. Temporary agreements or one-time diversions of funds, as happened when tobacco control proponents agreed to allow some anti-tobacco education money to be used for medical services, become precedents in subsequent budget years because operating programs build their own constituencies.

Fourth, and finally, informed and activated public opinion is a powerful weapon in health policy generally and on tobacco policy specifically. When tobacco policy is left to the inside game played in back rooms, the outcome will favor the existing power structure. The tobacco industry is a tough, experienced inside player who has benefited from the existing power structure. In contrast, the public health groups' power is amplified in public arenas, where tobacco industry's power is sharply curtailed.


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Introduction
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