California Officials Accuse Philip Morris of Duping Voters
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) _ Philip Morris Inc. duped voters into signing a petition for a ballot measure that would relax smoking restrictions in some California cities, a state official alleges.
Acting Secretary of State Tony Miller said Wednesday that he would ask a judge to let him survey some of the signers in an effort to keep the measure off the ballot in November.
The measure, sponsored by the Philip Morris-backed Californians for Statewide Smoking Restrictions, would repeal local anti-smoking ordinances and replace them statewide restrictions that would be weaker in some cases.
Miller said that people gathering signatures to put the measure on the ballot often failed to identify the tobacco company as the sponsor or failed to tell voters that the measure would pre-empt local smoking bans.
A spokesman for the industry-backed group, Lee Stitzenberger, denied the allegations.
Health groups also charged that voters were misled.
″We believe that a scientific survey will prove that at least half of those who signed the tobacco industry petition were duped or signed under false pretenses,″ said Carolyn Martin, chairwoman of the Coalition for a Healthy California.
The coalition is made up of the American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, the American Lung Association and other health and environmental groups.
The proposal would establish statewide smoking restrictions but repeal tougher local bans in Los Angeles, San Francisco and other cities.
For instance, smoking is banned in all indoor restaurants in Los Angeles. Under the initiative, restaurants with proper ventilation could designate up to 25 percent of their space for smokers.
Last month, backers of the initiative turned in about 607,000 signatures to put the measure on the ballot. They need nearly 385,000 valid signatures.
Miller said he has received more than 300 calls and letters from people who said petition circulators made deceptive comments about the measure.
While the measure does call for increased penalties for selling tobacco products to minors, among other restrictions, Miller said those provisions cloak the measure’s primary goal.