KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Missouri voters have rejected a measure that would have sharply increased the state's lowest-in-the-nation tobacco tax.
Tuesday's vote is the third time in a decade voters have rejected an effort to boost the tax from its current 17 cents per pack. Opponents of the increase say the state would have lost millions in dollars in tax revenue from people who cross state lines to buy cheaper smokes.
Supporters say the tax would have brought in $283 million to $423 million in new revenues that would have been earmarked for higher education, K-12 schools and smoking cessation programs. Among the measure's biggest backers was the American Cancer Society, which also promoted the tax as a deterrent to young people who would be less likely to buy higher-priced cigarettes.
Statement from Misty Snodgrass, Show-Me A Brighter Future spokesperson and Legislative/Government Affairs Director for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network:
"This is a sad day for Missouri. While we respect the will of voters, we do not respect the last-ditch scare tactics tobacco companies used to confuse voters and thus preserve their profits from selling deadly, addictive products.
"Missouri is still the state with the lowest tobacco tax in the country. Missouri taxpayers will continue to subsidize the tobacco industry for the $2.13 billion in annual expenditures associated with tobacco use in Missouri. Poor health care outcomes and high youth smoking rates are the price we all are paying for tobacco companies' dishonest campaigning.
"We appreciate all of the efforts of the volunteers, business and families in Missouri who supported Proposition B, informing voters and countering the dishonest campaign tactics of tobacco companies. We also want to recognize the investment made by organizations devoted to creating a brighter future for Missouri including the American Cancer Society, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City, Missouri Association of School Administrators, Missouri School Board Association, including chambers of commerce and business organizations and a broad coalition of health and education organizations across Missouri. Unfortunately, all that this vote has shown is that dirty politics pays dividends - right into the pockets of tobacco companies.
"Meanwhile, our coalition will continue to support health and education in Missouri and are hopeful that those elected to represent Missourians will find a path forward to fully funding our schools, holding tobacco companies accountable for the harms of their products, decreasing smoking rates among children and increasing efforts to assist those who want to quit. Proposition B would have done all these things, but now it will be up to our state legislature to find an alternative way to meet these unmet needs in Missouri."