Voters to decide on tobacco tax

Missouri ranks last in the USA when it comes to how much tax will be charged on tobacco products. Next week, Missouri voters will have the opportunity to change that.

Proposal B is one of four measures on Nov. 6 ballot. It is aimed at increasing the state’s tobacco tax from 17 cents per pack to 90 cents, 73% increase. It would also increase taxes on cigars and “Roll your own” tobacco. If approved, Missouri would be the 33rd of high taxes on tobacco products in the country. New York comes to the top of the pack, charging $ 4.35 per pack. Kansas currently has a 79-percent tax on cigarettes.

“We’re not going to stop at all, but most Missourians want to quit smoking,” said Misty Snodgrass, director of government relations for the American Cancer Society. “It’s really about saving lives and saving children from ever starting to smoke.”

The national average is $ 1.46 per pack.

This will be the third time that voters are asked to approve the increase in the tobacco cost. However, unlike the two previous elections, the tobacco industry is not against the increase. In addition to increasing the cigarette tax, the measure eliminates a loophole that allowed the ‘value’ brands or lesser known cigarettes recoup the money they paid into the state fund, which was established to compensate for the costs of smoking-related diseases.

The tax also means more money for the state, particularly in schools and higher education institutions. The estimated $283 million in new revenue generated from the sales tax increase will be divided among public schools, higher education and the creating of smoking cessation programs.

Proposal B was approved by a number of state and national organizations, including the Missouri School Boards Association, the American Cancer Society, American Heart Association and the Health Foundation Greater Kansas City, among others.

“Our children’s future depends on a healthy lifestyle and the quality of education, both of which supported the proposal B”, said Allan Markley, director of the School District and president of the Raytown School District Partnership Board of Greater Kansas City. “As educators, parents and concerned citizens, we believe it is important to keep cigarettes out of the hands of children and Proposition B will help do so by increasing the country’s lowest tobacco tax.”

B is also against the Missouri Petroleum Marketers Association and a mini market. In its campaign to vote no on the proposal, the association advertises that 760-percent tax increase is “outrageous and unfair.” 760-percent tax increase is from 73 cents applies to all tobacco products, and additional 57 cents, which is included in the lower end of the price or the brand of cigarettes.

Among the largest of the arguments is that there is no guarantee funds Proposition B would go to education. Because the petition initiative, not an amendment of the constitution, the legislature can actually change what voters approve.

In addition, opponents to the measure feel that the tax increase will eliminate the competitive advantage of Missouri in the tobacco market and ultimately cost the state millions of dollars in sales tax revenue.

“People who come from Kansas, Nebraska, Tennessee and Kentucky to buy cigarettes and do things like fill up their cars,” said Ron Leone, executive director MPMCSA. “If Prop B passes, they stay home. They do not do all these other things.”

No matter what kind of opponents said the proposal B, many of the local leaders in favor of the proposal.

“This could have very significant financial implications on us,” said the manager of Independence Jim Hinson. “But while we certainly welcome the fact that the most important use of additional funds for smoking cessation programs that prevent children and adults from smoking.”

For more information on both sides of the proposal B debate visit.

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