Missouri Officials Refuse to Increase Cigarette Tax

A pack of Marlboro red at one of the smoke shop in the Missouri tax cigarettesstate capital costs $5.14. The same cigarettes cost more than $13 on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. “In case this is a race to the bottom, Missouri will win,” stated Missouri state representative, Mary Still, referring to the fact that currently Missouri levies the lowest cigarette tax in the U.S. (17 cents per pack).

New York has the highest cigarette tax, at $4.35 a pack, according to data presented by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. At a time when Deep South states are switching to golden leaf to increase sin taxes, some find it strange that Missouri wants to maintain its tobacco product taxes at rather low levels. Exactly since the state is facing a budgetary gap of almost $600 million next year.
All attempts to increase cigarette taxes are repeatedly turned down. Mrs. Still will try one more time in 2011, to draft a bill, which will increase the tax by 12 cents for eight years. But antitax Republicans monitor both legislative chambers and they do not plan to intervene in a dispute on that right now.

The University of Missouri, which is predicting a potential $50 million reduction from the state next year, currently hosted legislators to find practical ideas for covering the budgetary gap. The tax on cigarettes happened because it seems to be a low-hanging fruit, given the high social expenses of smoking. 23.1% of adult Missourians are smokers; this is one of the highest rate in the nation, after Kentucky with 25.7%, according to findings presented by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Tobacco-related diseases cost the Medicaid system about $641 million last year, and according to CDC, smoking kills approximately 9,500 Missouri residents annually. Also it was found that increasing tobacco products taxes by 10% may decrease smoking nearly 5%, especially among teenagers.

One thing that causes a problem in reforming cigarette taxes is linked to state constitution. Any significant tax increase should go before the voters. In 2006, such a proposal to increase the cigarette tax to 97 cents per pack lost a hard referendum, 51% to 49%. Anti-tobacco advocates and hospitals allocated millions of dollars into the campaign for the tax; opposition came at once from the tobacco lobby.

Many opponents of higher taxes on tobacco declare that sin taxes are regressive and affect poop people most of all. They also stated that the low taxes are very useful for the state because bargain-hunting smokers of the eight states bordering Missouri cross the state in order to provide themselves with cheaper cigarettes. It is possible to safe about $12 per carton in state taxes.

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