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A coalition of health organizations is working to revive a proposed $2-a-pack tax on cigarettes in California.

Carried by Sen. Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, the bill would channel revenue from the new tax into health care and smoking prevention programs.

It is currently languishing on the suspense file. But Jim Knox, a lobbyist for the American Cancer Society, said the measure's supporters are "making another run at it."

"We're not taking no for an answer," Knox said. "We're going to push when we come back in August."

Representatives of the American Cancer Society and allies -- including the Service Employees International Union, Health Access, the American Heart Association and the American Lung Association -- are meeting with lawmakers seen as potential swing votes during the summer recess. If advocates are unable to persuade legislators to take another look, Knox said the coalition will "more than likely" pursue a ballot initiative.

"There are discussions under way, but we'd have to take a look more seriously if the Legislature decides to take a pass," Knox said.

Legislative leaders have expressed reluctance to move aggressively on new taxes this session. In addition to the proposed tobacco tax, the Senate Appropriations Committee, which de León chairs, also tabled bills to raise more revenue from soda, oil extraction and plastic bags.

Mark Hedlund, a spokesman for Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, said De León's bill won't move from the suspense file this year.

"Come January we'll be starting to take a look at these various proposed tax measures," Hedlund said, "from this kind of measure to some of the constitutional amendments in regards to local taxation."

PHOTO: A Sacramento man smokes a cigarette on the front porch of his home in Sacramento, Thursday, June 11, 2009. The Sacramento Bee/Lezlie Sterling.


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