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    Missouri Proposes 80-Cent Tax Increase on Cigarettes

    C-store owners question necessity and fairness of tax increase.

    JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- A proposed 80-cent-per-pack tax on cigarettes in Missouri is generating mixed results, reported The Kansas City Star . Anti-smoking advocates have rallied behind the proposed constitutional amendment on the November 2006 ballot. It would devote an estimated $61 million, 17.5 percent of the $351 million raised annually, to smoking education, prevention and cessation programs. An additional $100 million annually would go to treatment of chronic diseases and smoking-related illnesses among the poor, and $190 million a year would raise Medicaid fees to health-care providers.

    Meanwhile, tobacco companies, convenience store owners and smokers’ groups questioned the necessity and fairness of the tax increase, according to the report.

    David Howard, a spokesman for R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., told The Kansas City Star that smokers had provided the state plenty of money through smoking taxes paid each year and settlement payments that come from tobacco companies.

    "Where is all of the money the state already receives every year?" Howard asked in the report.

    Missouri's current cigarette tax is a low 17 cents a pack and the state spends little on anti-smoking efforts. Although Missouri has received $966 million from a nationwide settlement with tobacco companies for anti-smoking programs and expects an additional $154 million in April, only about $500,000 a year of that money has gone to combat smoking; the rest has been used to plug holes in the state’s budget, reported The Kansas City Star .

    The amount devoted to anti-smoking programs in the latest ballot initiative is significantly more than under a 2002 proposal to increase cigarette taxes by 55 cents a pack, which Missouri voters narrowly rejected. Though anti-smoking groups supported that tax proposal, they were disappointed that it dedicated just 7 percent, or about $24 million of the proceeds, to smoking cessation programs, reported The Kansas City Star .

    Critics of the 2002 proposal also lambasted it for the fact that the majority of the money would have gone to the health-care industry. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Missouri would have to spend a minimum of $33 million annually on anti-smoking programs to be effective.

    Campaign finance reports filed last week show proponents have raised $200,000, money contributed by the Missouri Hospital Association.

    Tobacco companies in 2002 spent nearly $77,000 opposing what was called Proposition A, and convenience stores spent about $41,000. Ron Leone, executive vice president of the Missouri Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association, said convenience stores may step up their efforts to fight the current proposal.

    "We’re going to do whatever is necessary to make our view known," he told The Kansas City Star .

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