Tobacco tax increase could be on the November ballot

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COLUMBIA – The Missouri Supreme Court heard testimony over a potential tobacco tax increase on Thursday. The proposed tax would increase the tax on cigarettes from 17 cents to 77 cents by the year 2020.

Jane Dueker, attorney for Raise Your Hands for Kids and Vote Yes on 3 For Kids, said the tax, if passed, could create more than $300 million to be put toward children. She said that money is needed for education. 

“This could help close the gap between kids around the country and kids in Missouri. This would be the largest investment in our kids in decades. It would uphold the cigarette tax to provide for early childhood education, early childhood health care and smoking cessation for pregant moms,” Dueker said.

The tax is currently in front of the Missouri Supreme Court after opponents argued over the clarity of the original summary.

Despite the confusion, Dueker said the tax’s purpose is clear.

“The general assembly will not be able to take revenue out of this and replace general revenue with this money. So there can be no revenue swap, and this will be going to early childhood education and it will be done by local grant. We are giving local communities more money to use towards children,” Dueker said.

John Constant is a long time tobacco user and said the price increase would most likely go unnoticed. 

“Honestly, I don’t think I would see to much of a change in price. I’m not counting the pennies on it, and I’d be happier knowing the increase would be going to something important like education,” Constant said.

He also said the tax could be beneficial to prevent the use of tobacco.

“I think there are always gonna be some people upset with it, but as a user myself, I would never advocate its use. So if people are going to use buy less tobacco just because of a small increase for education, I could care less."

KOMU 8 reached out to 10 different local tobacco shops for their comment on how the tax would affect them, and none wanted to comment.