Annual "Kick Butts" Day Raises Concern about Tobacco Tax

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JEFFERSON CITY - Concerns about raising Missouri cigarette taxes came back into spotlight on the 17th annual "Kick Butts Day" Wednesday.

Representative Mary Still (D-Columbia) has proposed a tobacco tax increase from the current 17 cents per pack to 89 cents per pack. Eight similar initiatives have been filed with the Missouri Secretary of State. Among them, a measure called the Missouri Tobacco Tax Initiative filed by Jefferson City attorney Marc Ellinger hopes to increase the tax to $1 per pack.

The proposed bills and initiatives would distribute the tax money into programs including tobacco prevention and education.

But Representative Mike Lair (R-Chillicothe) from the Joint Committee on Education said he doesn't think increasing the tax would be a good way to raise money for education. 

Even smokers have divided opinions on this issue. Some said they support the tax increase because they know it is not good to smoke. Others said it is not a sustainable economic cycle to continously impose taxes on one group of people to benefit another group.

According to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, the national average cigarette tax rate is $1.46 per pack, while the eight neighboring states to Missouri have an average rate of $0.89 per pack. The group said tobacco use costs $2.1 billion in health care bills each year in Missouri. Currently, 18.9 percent of the state's high school students smoke.

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