WHAT OTHERS SAY: Defeat of cigarette tax increase hurts Missouri

Friday, November 9, 2012 | 6:00 a.m. CST

The dispiriting defeat of Proposition B on Tuesday leaves Missouri with the nation's lowest tobacco tax, a high incidence of costly tobacco-related illnesses and too few dollars for schools, universities and other services.

The ballot initiative to raise the tax on tobacco products failed by about 42,000 votes.

Its defeat was helped along by misleading claims from opponents, who exaggerated the amount of the tax increase and falsely linked the measure to "Obamacare."

It was the third time Missouri voters narrowly defeated a higher tobacco tax, leaving health, education and business advocates wondering what to do next.

Ron Leone, who led the opposition as executive director of the Missouri Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association, has said his group may be open to doubling Missouri’s 17-cents-a-pack cigarette tax.

But a state legislaturedominated by tax-averse Republicansisn’t likely to put any increase on the ballot.

And the many groups that initiated and funded Proposition B might not summon the energy for another statewide initiative anytime soon.

In any case, doubling the tax would still leave Missouri with the second lowest cigarette tax (Virginia's is 30 cents a pack) and insufficient revenue to properly finance education and other basic services.

Proposition B also promised to address a glitch in state law that gives a large, unfair pricing advantage to manufacturers of off-brand cigarettesmanufacturers.

If nothing else, legislative leaders must act on the advice of Attorney General Chris Koster to close the loophole favoring small cigarette manufacturers before it costs the state millions in legal costs and penalties.

Koster was one of the few statewide officials with the courage to endorse Proposition B. Missouri shouldn't be spending $532 million a year in Medicaid costs to subsidize people's smoking habits, he correctly noted.

Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon and Republican legislative leaders unfortunately refused to back the initiative, claiming Missouri can't afford a tax increase.

The truth is, Missouri couldn't afford not to raise its cigarette tax. But now that it has, the onus falls on Nixon and the legislature to explain what the state must do without so smokers can purchase cigarettes with a puny tax of 17 cents a pack.

Copyright The Kansas City Star. Reprinted with permission.

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Mark Foecking November 9, 2012 | 10:10 a.m.

Smokers actually incur less health care cost over their lifetime than non-smokers, because they die sooner. So do obese people. The "increase in health care costs" argument isn't true whern you look at lifetime costs.


(Report Comment)
Robin Nuttall November 9, 2012 | 10:36 a.m.

You got a cite for that little factoid? Smoking not only affects the health of those who smoke, but all those around them, including their children, spouses, co-workers (if they can smoke where they work), etc. I am pretty suspicious of your statement.

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking November 9, 2012 | 2:26 p.m.

Of course I do:

"Because of differences in life expectancy, however, lifetime health expenditure was highest among healthy-living people and lowest for smokers."



(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking November 9, 2012 | 2:36 p.m.

Also, these days, secondhand smoke is about as much of a hazard as diesel soot or BBQ smoke. It's only a few people (non-smokers in confined areas with smokers in living situations or occupationally) that are at any risk from secondhand smoke. An occasional whiff, although it may bother you, won't hurt you.


(Report Comment)

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