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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Missouri House member Chris Kelly (D-Columbia) wants voters to raise the state's cigarette tax by 81 cents per pack, reported tobacco-news.net. Currently, Missouri's 17-cent cigarette tax is the lowest in the country; Kelly's proposal would increase it to 98 cents per pack.
Kelly outlined his plan to a House committee last Thursday, according to the report. Kelly proposed a future statewide vote in which state residents would decide whether to increase the tax. He stated that an increase could bring in $425 million in state revenue as well as discourage people from smoking and lower state health care costs.
However, members of Missouri's convenience store industry warned that a tax increase would hurt their business, as smokers from states with higher cigarette taxes would no longer have an incentive to come to Missouri to purchase their cigarettes.
"I think a lot of people drive over from Illinois to get their cigarettes because they are cheaper here," said convenience store worker Jordan Orick. "And I doubt that people are going to continue coming here if they go up and they're the same price." Others disagreed that smokers would change their purchasing habits, citing the convenience of buying in Missouri.
If the voters passed the increase, neighboring states Kentucky and Tennessee would have lower cigarette taxes in the 60-cent range.