Columbia legislators examine potential increase of US's lowest cigarette tax

Monday, November 15, 2010 | 8:15 p.m. CST; updated 9:01 p.m. CST, Tuesday, January 24, 2012
Currently, Missouri has the lowest tax on cigarettes in the U.S., costing residents 17 cents per pack. In comparison New York charges its residents $4.35 per pack. Missouri law requires that a large tax increase be put to public vote, but a marginal increase could be voted on and decided in the state legislature.

COLUMBIA — Missouri has the lowest cigarette tax in the nation by 13 cents, but some local legislators hope to change that in the coming session.

Missouri’s tax is 17 cents per pack of 20 cigarettes, a rate that has not increased in more than a decade. The average state cigarette tax is $1.45 per pack, according to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, an advocacy group that monitors tobacco trends.

While campaigning for the Nov. 2 election, two local politicians advocated for an increase in the cigarette tax as part of their platforms. State Rep. Mary Still, D-Columbia, said Missouri “definitely needs to look at an increase.”

“We should at least be able to have the smokers take responsibility for the cost the state is incurring because of their smoking habits,” Still said.

Still said the cigarette tax should be looked at as a “user tax” because only those who smoke have to pay it. She said the point of the tax is to have smokers contribute some of what they are costing the state in Medicaid dollars because of smoking-related illnesses.

“It’s more a matter of personal responsibility,” she said.

Still said her reasons for considering a cigarette tax increase are:

  • Adding “much-needed” revenue to the state.
  • Deterring people, especially teenagers, from smoking.
  • Allowing smokers to help cover costs of smoking-related health problems.

Still said she wants voters to realize how much lower Missouri’s cigarette tax is than any other state’s tax and the potential effects of that, such as an increased amount of people smoking.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 25 percent of the adult population in Missouri are cigarette smokers. Across the country, the amount of adult cigarette smokers ranges from 9.3 to 26.5 percent per state.

“Being the lowest (cigarette tax) in the country is really nothing to be proud of,” Still said.

Still said she will likely propose to raise the tax 12 cents per year until it reaches $1. She said the legislature could either vote on a small increase, such as this, or the public could vote on a more substantial increase. Missouri law does not allow the General Assembly to vote internally on large tax increases.

Still said the tax has a good chance of being accepted by the public because “the economy is such that the public recognizes we’ll have to have revenue from somewhere.”

State Rep. Chris Kelly, D-Columbia, said if a cigarette tax increase goes to a public vote it should be specified how the money would be used.

“You’d have greater buy-ins from citizens because they’d see where the money was going and greater buy-ins from various constituent groups, who’d be more inclined to support the tax,” Kelly said.

According to the Missouri Department of Revenue, the current 17-cent tax is spread among the state school money fund (9 cents per pack of 20), the health initiatives fund (4 cents per pack of 20) and the fair share fund (4 cents per pack of 20).

Kelly said even though the current economic and political climates indicate citizens don’t want to see any tax increases, he would prefer that a raise in the cigarette tax goes to a public vote.

Kelly also said he would like to see cigarette tax revenue go toward elementary and secondary education, higher education, capital improvements, veterans and other state services. He said he would support increasing the tax by any amount up to a dollar.

“You could do a lot for higher education with this,” Kelly said.

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john erkle November 16, 2010 | 1:45 a.m.

Columbia legislators examine potential increase of US's lowest cigarette tax

You only got 2 legislators for an increased tax,not the many your headline seems to claim.........

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith November 16, 2010 | 3:18 a.m.

You're right, John, but it's not the number of legislators that counts, it's their SIZE. :)

[We'll skip over the latest bad jokes about "how size matters."]

In the immortal works of Sigmund Freud, "Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar."

(Report Comment)
Robert Partyka November 16, 2010 | 8:12 a.m.

How in the world does Missouri have lower tobacco tax than states that have been historically driven by the tobacco industry? (Virginia, North Carolina, ect.) This needs to change. An editorial cartoonist for that other Columbia paper got it right when he drew this - A tobacco tax wouldn't cure all the state's woes, but it would be a start.

(Report Comment)
John Erkle November 16, 2010 | 8:26 a.m.

’They have created a fear that is based on nothing’’
World-renowned pulmonologist, president of the prestigious Research Institute Necker for the last decade, Professor Philippe Even, now retired, tells us that he’s convinced of the absence of harm from passive smoking. A shocking interview.

What do the studies on passive smoking tell us?

PHILIPPE EVEN. There are about a hundred studies on the issue. First surprise: 40% of them claim a total absence of harmful effects of passive smoking on health. The remaining 60% estimate that the cancer risk is multiplied by 0.02 for the most optimistic and by 0.15 for the more pessimistic … compared to a risk multiplied by 10 or 20 for active smoking! It is therefore negligible. Clearly, the harm is either nonexistent, or it is extremely low.

It is an indisputable scientific fact. Anti-tobacco associations report 3 000-6 000 deaths per year in France ...

I am curious to know their sources. No study has ever produced such a result.

Many experts argue that passive smoking is also responsible for cardiovascular disease and other asthma attacks. Not you?

They don’t base it on any solid scientific evidence. Take the case of cardiovascular diseases: the four main causes are obesity, high cholesterol, hypertension and diabetes. To determine whether passive smoking is an aggravating factor, there should be a study on people who have none of these four symptoms. But this was never done. Regarding chronic bronchitis, although the role of active smoking is undeniable, that of passive smoking is yet to be proven. For asthma, it is indeed a contributing factor ... but not greater than pollen!

The purpose of the ban on smoking in public places, however, was to protect non-smokers. It was thus based on nothing?

Absolutely nothing! The psychosis began with the publication of a report by the IARC, International Agency for Research on Cancer, which depends on the WHO (Editor's note: World Health Organization). The report released in 2002 says it is now proven that passive smoking carries serious health risks, but without showing the evidence. Where are the data? What was the methodology? It's everything but a scientific approach. It was creating fear that is not based on anything.

Why would anti-tobacco organizations wave a threat that does not exist?

(Report Comment)
John Erkle November 16, 2010 | 8:26 a.m.

The anti-smoking campaigns and higher cigarette prices having failed, they had to find a new way to lower the number of smokers. By waving the threat of passive smoking, they found a tool that really works: social pressure. In good faith, non-smokers felt in danger and started to stand up against smokers. As a result, passive smoking has become a public health problem, paving the way for the Evin Law and the decree banning smoking in public places. The cause may be good, but I do not think it is good to legislate on a lie. And the worst part is that it does not work: since the entry into force of the decree, cigarette sales are rising again.

Why not speak up earlier?

As a civil servant, dean of the largest medical faculty in France, I was held to confidentiality. If I had deviated from official positions, I would have had to pay the consequences. Today, I am a free man.

Le Parisien

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith November 16, 2010 | 9:51 a.m.

Several "agents" can cause lung diseases, including lung cancers, and it isn't always evident whether lung illnesses have been caused by the action of a single agent or by a combination of agents.

If a patient has had exposure to two particular forms of asbestos (neither ever widely used in the United States) and is subsequently diagnosed as having mesothelioma (a presently incurable lung cancer) we can suspect the cause of the terminal disease, but other factors, such as smoking and/or previous lung scarring could have easily "helped things along." If everyone occupationally exposed to those forms of asbestos received a certain death sentence, I wouldn't be writing this.

(Report Comment)
John Erkle November 16, 2010 | 9:55 a.m.

Scientific Evidence Shows Secondhand Smoke Is No Danger

Written By: Jerome Arnett, Jr., M.D.
Published In: Environment & Climate News
Publication Date: July 1, 2008

The Heartland Institute


BS Alert: The 'third-hand smoke' hoax

The thirdhand smoke scam

Heart attacks Frauds and Myths..

(Report Comment)
Andrew Denney November 16, 2010 | 10:08 a.m.

@John Erkle,

Last month, researchers at Washington University released the results of a study into the effects of secondhand smoke that you might find informative:

Additionally, I couldn't help but notice that one of the posts you have left us here today appears verbatim on other stories about smoking on several other news sites. Do you also go by the handle "harleyrider"?

Thank You,

Andrew Denney
Columbia Missourian copy desk

(Report Comment)
John Erkle November 16, 2010 | 11:02 a.m.

The results actually backfire on their claims of "health hazard"

New St. Louis AQ study published by Washington University proves once again shs is not a workplace health hazard
The test results prove secondhand smoke levels in St. Louis MO. establishments tested are 110 to 877 times SAFER than OSHA workplace air quality requirements.

Airborne nicotine levels ranged from 0.015 to 25.14 μg/m3 (micrograms per cubic meter). The median (interquartile range) airborne nicotine levels in venues that allowed smoking was 2.83 μg/m3 (0.57-4.56 μg/m3)

The OSHA permissible exposure limit for nicotine is 0.5 (milligrams) mg/m3 or 500 (micrograms) μg/m3, (full OSHA table can be found here) so now let's do the math:

500 (OSHA safe level) divided by 0.57 = shs levels are 877.19 times SAFER than OHSA permissible exposure limits

500 (OSHA safe level) divided by median 2.83 = shs levels are 176.68 times SAFER than OHSA permissible exposure limits

500 (OSHA safe level) divided by 4.56 = shs levels are 109.65 times SAFER than OHSA permissible exposure limits

more here:

air quality test results of secondhand smoke by Johns Hopkins University, the American Cancer Society, a Minnesota Environmental Health Department, and various researchers whose testing and report was peer reviewed and published in the esteemed British Medical Journal......prove that secondhand smoke is 2.6 - 25,000 times SAFER than occupational (OSHA) workplace regulations:

All nullify the argument that secondhand smoke is a workplace "health hazard".

Conversely, the effects of unnecessary, pharmaceutical nicotine funded, (RWJF) smoking ban laws have been profoundly detrimental:

Additionally, a World Health Organization (WHO) study, and analysis of former Surgeon General Carmona's "report" indicate that exaggerations and lies about secondhand smoke was the real pandemic of SHS.

(Report Comment)
John Erkle November 16, 2010 | 11:16 a.m.

Yes,I am harleyrider.

I didnt get involved in the fight against smoking bans without cause.I was simply minding my own business when the ban destroyed the life we had led.That doesnt sit well with me or other kentuckians and tennesseans.My grandmother happens to live in Washington Mo and my grandad put my dad and his brothers thru college at washington university. To see whats become of that university with trash science like this air quality study is beyond belief!

You might say I am the smoker they shoulda left alone....

Especially after I found that second hand smoke s a joke and they used this lame created psuedo-science as a basis to destroy businesses,lives and freedom in America. You as an american should be appauled at restrictions o very liberty we were founded upon. But,you shant have to worry,these folks in the nanny business will eventually make a law against even you or your family.They are behind everything thats going on now in public health.

Your real story lies there,the bans are just one battle in the war on the worlds population.Freedom for all is at stake.

(Report Comment)
Paul Austin November 16, 2010 | 1:39 p.m.

Many readers are becoming more and more suspicious of the media when they meerly quote ambigious and generalized press releases from questionable sources without critique.
Your Wash. U. study is, in fact, a 4 page summary whose lead researchers background qualifications are questionable and the so-called study was commissioned by an undisclosed source.
Mrs. Dalys' article smacks of the same 'advocacy over substance' where vague facts fed to her from supporters who imply a win-win solution exists to solve higher educations impending woes. The same arguements were raised in the mid-80's that created the lottery and casinos where the billboards, put up by opponents, stated "THE LOTTERY-SUCKER TAX" But then, the media supported supported it whole-heartedly.
Props. C in August and Props A&B in November have shown how out of touch journalism has become from the realities of it's readership. Writers who accept facts without corroborating proof or evidence and rely on experts, beacause their name(s) are prefixed by 'Rep.' or suffixed by 'MPH' sully the legacy given them by Pultizer, Bernstien, and the other whose ethics and competance gave cedibility and honor to this nations 'fourth estate'.
No, Mr. Denny, it is sad state of affairs when Mr. Earkle puts forth the dissenting points that you and Mrs. Daly should have presented.
Little wonder that Ted Koppel is appauled at the decline of professional integrity of his vocation.

(Report Comment)
John Erkle November 16, 2010 | 2:31 p.m.

Illinois pondering returning smoking to casinos

11/16/2010 3:29:25 PM

Its over.........the end begins for anti-tobacco.

(Report Comment)

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