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KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Despite rejecting any such measure multiple times, Missouri's lowest-in-the-nation cigarette tax is expected to increase when voters go to the polls.
According to a survey conducted by the Kansas City Star, Proposition B, a plan to raise Missouri's cigarette tax from the current 17 cents a pack to 90 cents per pack, is supported by 52 percent and opposed by 40 percent, with 8 percent of respondents undecided.
If Proposition B wins approval, it would generate an estimated $283 to $423 million annually in additional tobacco tax revenue. Those funds would go toward education, via the state's Health and Education Fund. Fifty percent would go to K-12 public schools, 30 percent to higher education and 20 percent to tobacco use and prevention and quit assistance programs.
Joann Williamson, a former smoker, was one of those polled by the Star. "If they stand behind their word and it goes to schools, I see where it would do nothing but benefit us," she told the newspaper. "If you can afford to smoke, you can afford to support the schools."
Missouri's current 17 cents-per-pack tax is less than half of any other cigarette tax in the nation. Bordering Kansas has a 79-cent tax and the national average is $1.49.
Although the majority of those polled approved of Proposition B, not everyone loves the idea. The most vehement opposition comes from convenience store operators, who argue that raising the cigarette tax would hurt their competitive advantage vs. other states.
In addition, c-store operators noted that a higher cigarette tax would result in fewer packs sold in Missouri every year, meaning the amount collected in sales and other state and local taxes would decrease.
Missouri voters shot down similar measures to increase cigarette taxes in 2002 and 2006.