Big Tobacco's branding a proposed California cigarette tax as a government boondoggle sent a message that could echo in other states.
Through a barrage of campaign ads, the industry was able to cut support for a $1-a-pack cigarette tax backed by cycling legend Lance Armstrong from a two-thirds majority in March to a dead heat on Election Day.
While the outcome remained unclear Wednesday afternoon, experts said the vote could scare off tobacco foes in other states.
The $47 million ad campaign - which scarcely motioned the word "tobacco" - also showed that cigarette makers are shifting from arguing about their product to finding other ways to attack tax initiatives.
Anti-smoking advocates say they will keep fighting for increased taxes, which have been shown to cut smoking rates.