On June 5, California voters will have the chance to support life-saving research on new prevention strategies and therapies for the leading causes of death in our state—cancer and heart disease. All it takes is to vote YES on Proposition 29, the California Cancer Research Act. This initiative will fund research in California for tobacco-related diseases and programs to decrease smoking through a $1 per pack cigarette tax.

Proposition 29 essentially establishes a user fee, taxing bad behavior (smoking) and using that money to find a cure for smoking-related diseases through research in California. We have one of the lowest tobacco taxes in the nation (87 cents per pack), but the highest number of smokers of any state. We all pay for the side effects of smoking. In fact, it costs Californians more than $9 billion in smoking-related healthcare costs every year. That means that California’s non-smokers supplement smokers to the tune of $15 per pack through healthcare costs and lost productivity.

At the same time, we need to increase our investment in research to capitalize on the incredible scientific discoveries made over the past decade. We’re on the brink of a scientific revolution known as personalized medicine—an approach that uses a person’s own genetic information to prevent disease and tailor treatments. This is just one of many areas where California is leading the way in cutting-edge science, science that has great potential for preventing disease, speeding treatments and saving lives.

San Diego is a major hub for these technologies, and Prop 29 will provide up to $500 million per year to fund California tobacco-related disease research. If San Diego researchers perform as well as they do in competing for National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Prop 71 (Stem Cell initiative) resources, we could expect approximately $150 million per year in Prop 29 funding. This translates to potential cures for cancer and cardiovascular disease, as well as economic development and job creation here in San Diego.

To no one’s surprise, tobacco companies are Prop 29’s main opponent, as they too have an addiction...to protecting the market for their products by getting more people to take up the habit. The underwriters of the multi-million dollar NO campaign include Altria/Philip Morris, R.J. Reynolds, and other large tobacco companies.

In paid advertisements, these opponents claim that the money generated by Prop 29 would go to out-of-state research institutions. The truth is that the authors of this initiative, the American Cancer Society and the American Lung Association included unmistakable language that funds generated by Prop 29 are to be used in California.

Opponents also claim that there will be no accountability or oversight of Prop 29 revenue. The truth is that Prop 29 creates a nine-member Citizens Oversight Committee to establish a competitive, transparent peer-review process for awarding research grants, a process modeled after the NIH’s proven system. The committee consists of three representatives of California’s ten National Cancer Institute-designated cancer centers; three Chancellors from of the University of California; two California representatives of tobacco-related disease advocacy groups, including at least one person who has been treated for a tobacco-related illness; and one member affiliated with a California Academic Medical Center. The accountability provisions call for an annual public audit. All meetings are to be conducted under the Bagley Keen open meeting act, and the measure includes a strict conflict-of-interest policy.

The opponents’ ads also suggest that Prop 29 creates a giant new bureaucracy that will spend more than $125 million per year on salaries, overhead and buildings. The facts are that the total monies allocated for operations and overhead represent only 2 percent of the annual funds collected or about $16 million per year—a big difference from the $125 million they claim in their ads. How do they make this claim? They add in the $115 million allocated for funding construction of new research facilities and equipment in California.

Finally, “researchers” who speak in the tobacco companies’ TV ads complain that "not one penny" goes toward cancer treatment.

The truth is that the money is going to research because the cure for cancer has not been found. For the most part, today’s cancer victims do not die from lack of treatment. They die because the current treatments fail. We need better treatments, and better treatment comes from more and better research.

Every Californian stands to benefit from the passage of Prop 29 and if you don’t smoke, you don’t pay. For those who choose to smoke, Prop 29 will deter bad behavior, while funding the cutting-edge research to develop cures for cancer and heart disease.

Roth is CEO of CONNECT, Panetta is president and CEO of BIOCOM, Mark Cafferty is president and CEO of the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation, and Barrales is president and CEO of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce.