LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Fix tobacco loophole that costs Missouri lives, funding

Saturday, April 12, 2014 | 4:54 p.m. CDT

As someone who has been affected by the toll tobacco takes on families, I urge our elected officials to support HB 1242, sponsored by Rep. Rick Stream, R-Kirkwood, and SB 820, sponsored by Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia.

These bills would fix a loophole that essentially allows our government to subsidize tobacco companies in Missouri, which is a terrible detriment to our state’s health and revenue stream.

Three years ago, I lost my father, who was only 52 years old, to lung cancer. My family and I know firsthand the devastation of losing a loved one before their time to a preventable disease.

Sadly, this story is not unique to us. Smoking takes its deadly toll on approximately 9,500 people each year in Missouri. That’s more people than the population of Clinton, Mo.

It’s unfathomable that each year we lose the equivalent of an entire town from cancer and other smoking-related diseases.

In order to prevent more deaths and illnesses caused by smoking, we must discourage and decrease smoking. HB 1242 and SB 820 would have the effect of raising the price of discount cigarettes.

The more expensive the cigarettes, the harder it is for people to take up and keep smoking.

In addition, the legislation would protect money in the state budget that should fund important programs — such as Medicaid and tobacco-cessation programs.

Every other state that participated in the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement has already addressed this issue. It’s past time for Missouri to fix the tobacco loophole.

Michelle Pfister is a graduate student in public health at MU and a member of the Missouri Public Health Advocacy Coalition.

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