Cycling star weighs in on Measure 50

Cycling star weighs in on Measure 50 »Play Video
PORTLAND, Ore. - In a state where bicycling is nearly religion to many residents, seven-time Tour de France winner and cancer survivor Lance Armstrong has a lot of pull.

On Sunday, despite heavy rain and the cancellation of the longest ride route, thousands of cyclists, runner and walkers turned out to see Armstrong as he led the Livestrong Challenge to raise money to fund cancer research.

Organizers say nearly $2 million was raised by the Oregon event.

Now, Armstrong has taken the fight over Oregon's Measure 50 personally, penning an opinion piece in the Portland Tribune calling for support of the controversial measure.

If passed, Measure 50 would sharply increase the taxes on cigarettes in order to fund the Healthy Kids health insurance initiative.

Opponents of the measure, which include several major tobacco companies, contend Measure 50 would amend the Oregon constitution to tax a single product, something they say has not been done before in the state's history.

In his opinion piece, Armstrong wrote that "policymakers and policies are only as effective as the citizens they govern; it is up to us to stand up and support laws and regulations that we know will benefit us and our communities."

He says cancer is the No. 1 killer of Americans under the age of 85.

Cathy Kaufman of the Yes on 50 campaign welcomed the famed cyclist's involvement.

"We're really proud to have him standing behind us," Kaufman said. She said no one from the campaign contacted Armstrong or asked him to support the campaign.

While smokers interviewed by KATU News disagreed with the proposed tax, they admitted that Armstrong's backing was a boost for the measure. One man said he thought the tax could backfire.

"Once people start quitting because they [cigarettes] cost too much, they're not going to get the taxes that they're counting on," said a smoker who identified himself only as Frank.

"Having no smokers in Oregon would be a wonderful problem to have," Kathy Kaufman said.

Election day is November 6.