Missouri Voters Strike Down Tobacco Tax Hike

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The cigarette tax in Missouri will remain the lowest in the country with the defeat of Proposition B.

State voters headed to the polls yesterday to reject the proposal -- with 51 percent voting against the measure, according to the Kansas City Star. Proposition B aimed to increase the state's cigarette tax from 17 cents to 90 cents per pack.

The move was expected to generate between $283 million and $423 million a year. Half of the additional revenue is earmarked for public schools, 20 percent for higher education and the remaining 20 percent for tobacco cessation programs, as CSNews Online previously reported.

Proposition B's defeat came one week after a survey conducted by the Kansas City Star found the ballot question was supported by 52 percent of respondents and opposed by 40 percent, with 8 percent of respondents undecided. However, according to the newspaper, in the final week of the campaign, some opponents had warned that the initiative couldn't bind future Missouri lawmakers, and they said there was no guarantee the money would be spent as promised on education and prevention.

This is the third time in 10 years that Missouri voters have rejected the state's attempt to raise the cigarette tax. Similar measures were defeated in 2002 and 2006. During those campaigns, the nation's biggest tobacco companies spent millions to oppose any increase, and those propositions failed. This time Big Tobacco sat out the campaign because Proposition B closed a loophole that put those companies at a pricing disadvantage with off-brand companies, according to the news outlet.

This time around convenience stores across the state raised concerns that increasing the levy would hurt business in border towns. Springfield, Mo.-based Rapid Roberts had previously said the current 17-cents-per-pack levy was a big reason the company opened stores near the state line nearly 30 years ago. The c-store company added more than 75 percent of business at those stores comes from Arkansas drivers; the neighboring state charges almost a dollar more per pack of cigarettes, as CSNews Online reported in mid-October.


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