|MO Cigarette Tax Increase 2012|
This Discussion Guide is part of Community Conversations at FOCUS St. Louis. It is meant to initiate civil discourse around the policies that affect the St. Louis region; to hear each other’s perspective. As is the case with all public policies, this issue is complex and multi-faceted, with many stakeholders. Please keep this in mind as you discuss the proposed cigarette tax increase in your community.
Missouri Cigarette Tax Increase – 2012 Ballot
The Missouri Tobacco Tax Initiative, also known as the "Healthy Missouri Initiative Petition," will appear on the November 2012 ballot. If passed, the ballot measure would impose an additional $0.73 tax on each package of twenty cigarettes. Measure language reads:
Shall Missouri law be amended to:
The proposal from Show-Me a Brighter Future, a coalition led by the American Cancer Society, is estimated to generate from $283 million to $423 million annually. Half the money would be used for public school programs, 30 percent would go to higher education and 20 percent would support smoking cessation programs.
Missouri has the lowest cigarette tax in the nation at 17 cents per pack. The state also has the 11th-highest smoking rate in the U.S., according to Show-Me a Brighter Future, proponents of the tax increase. The eight states that border Missouri have an average tax rate of one dollar per pack. If voters approve the measure, the tax on cigarettes in Missouri will exceed the tax rate in all but two of the states bordering Missouri.
The measure has two aims, according to Misty Snodgrass, director of governmental affairs for the American Cancer Society. The most important reason is to increase the price of cigarettes so fewer young people start smoking. The other is to provide a stable source of revenue for the targeted programs.
According to the Department of Health and Senior Services:
While increasing cigarette taxes might appear to be a simple way to raise revenue, opponents argue that it can backfire and may even cause a loss in net cigarette sales. St. Louis and Kansas City, Missouri’s two largest metropolitan areas, both border states with much higher cigarette taxes; therefore residents of Illinois and Kansas are prompted to make their purchases in Missouri.
Supporters of the ballot measure argue that, even if applied only to off-brand cigarettes, the tax increase will cause many people to quit smoking, thus improving public health in Missouri. Supporters also contend that the potential lost revenue is overstated by opponents of the tax measure.
Who else is involved with this issue?
The Missouri Budget Project and Show-Me a Brighter Future, led by The American Cancer Society, favor the tax increase. The most prominent organization in the St. Louis region that is opposed to the tax proposal is The Show-Me Institute.
Three Possible Perspectives:
Person A is in favor of the tax increase, believing that Missouri’s cigarette tax is far too low. The state’s budget could use the money as could the educational and cessation programs. Missourians’ health could use the help as well, as the Department of Health and Senior Services points out.
Person B does not support the cigarette tax increase, particularly during difficult economic times. As a general rule, government does not spend money wisely, and any proposal that increases the size of government ought to be opposed.
Person C believes a tax increase is important, but believes that a $1.00/pack increase is too much. Person C would support a smaller increase on cigarette taxes that applied to all brands.
Links for further reading: