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    Coalition to Oppose Tax Increase

    Tobacco companies, state association join forces in Missouri.

    ST. LOUIS -- Several tobacco companies have joined to fight a proposed tax increase on their products that will appear on the Nov. 5 ballot in Missouri. The coalition said it formed a campaign committee called "Missourians Against Unfair Taxes" to oppose the state's measure to increase its cigarette tax to 72 cents from the current 17 cents a pack. Taxes on other tobacco products would rise 20 percent.

    The tobacco group is the second to announce opposition to the ballot measure. As reported by CSNews Online, the Missouri Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association plans to place placards atop gas pumps and distribute fliers opposing the tax.

    Both groups say the tax increase could prompt smokers to buy cigarettes in neighboring states or over the Internet, hurting Missouri businesses. They also contend the 324-percent tax increase on cigarettes places an unfair burden on one segment of Missourians, according to the Associated Press.

    Ron Spidle, a spokesman for the new opposition group, said that if voters approve the tobacco tax increase, proposals may follow to raise taxes on other so-called vices, such as alcohol or fast food.

    "They're wanting to tax something just to be taxing, without having a super good reason," said Spidle, owner of the Smokes for Less chain, which has six stores in Missouri and seven in Kansas. "There's no accountability for anything. If they are going to tax tobacco, what's next?"

    Members of Missourians Against Unfair Taxes include the Missouri Council for Burley Tobacco, Philip Morris, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Co., Lorillard Tobacco Co., Brown and Williamson Tobacco Corp., the Smokeless Tobacco Council and the Missouri Wholesale Distributors Association.

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