Proponents of a November ballot initiative that would raise tobacco taxes by 73 cents per pack used a Friday afternoon stop to champion the measure as a boon to public health and public education.
The Show-Me A Brighter Future Yes on Prop B bus tour stopped at Centennial Park on Friday, with spokeswoman Misty Snodgrass telling a small crowd that “today, Missouri has the lowest tobacco tax in the country at 17 cents per pack.”
“This directly relates to our poor health outcomes and high smoking rates, especially among children,” Snodgrass said.
According to Snodgrass, the measure would raise $283 million in new state revenue, with half of the proceeds going to public schools, 30 percent to public higher education and 20 percent to tobacco education and cessation programs
Snodgrass said the revenues would mean an additional $705,000 per year for the Sedalia 200 School District.
“There are safeguards in place to make sure that money is spent how the voters intend for it to be,” Snodgrass said.
Jeanean Sieving, chairwoman of Clean Air Sedalia, an advocacy group seeking a ban on smoking in public places, said the measure would help cut down on tobacco use and related health problems.
“A raise in tobacco tax has proven to decrease the number of children that have initiated smoking and will provide funds for adults that desire smoking cessation classes,” Sieving said.
However, Ron Leone, executive director of the Missouri Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association said by telephone Friday afternoon that the measure amounts to a 760 percent tax increase and would hurt Missouri businesses in border communities by making Missouri stores less competitive.
“This will put small businesses and consumers at a competitive disadvantage with four of our eight border states,” Leone said, noting that the increase would push Missouri taxes higher than those in Kansas, Nebraska, Kentucky and Tennessee. “And, it will reduce the advantage we have over the other four states.”
Leone also said there was no way to guarantee that the legislature would treat the revenue as additional funding for schools.
“There is nothing that stops them from replacing appropriations with these funds and then moving existing funding to something else,” Leone said.
More information on the issue is available through the campaign websites at showmea
brighterfuture.com, from supporters of the measure, and nomotax.com, from Prop B opponents.