Fighting Cigarette Tax Hikes

12 Sep

One of the questions the Leader chose to ask legislative candidates during its pre-primary election coverage was whether Missouri should raise its lowest-in-the-nation cigarette tax, currently $0.17 per pack. The general opinion of GOP candidates was that we should not. They lumped the cig tax in with other taxes under the traditional GOP “no new taxes” position (one exception was state senate candidate Gary Romine, who gave a non-committal answer).

I think that the GOP can relax their anti-tax attitudes in this instance. The national average cig tax is $1.49 per pack. We are strapped for cash as a state. It wouldn’t hurt to bring our cig tax more in line with other states. I recognize that raising the tax may or may not get people to stop smoking, but I see no reason to give our smokers such a big discount.

The issue has left the hands of the legislature, however, as a $0.73 per pack increase will be on the ballot as Proposition B. The state auditor has estimated that Missouri would realize $283 million to $423 million in new annual revenues. The new total tax, $0.90 per pack, would move us up to 33rd in the national rankings.

It will be interesting to see how JeffCo votes on this proposition, considering our highest-in-the-metro-area 30% adult smoking rate.

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