Tobacco companies form group to oppose proposed tax increase
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Several tobacco companies joined to fight a proposed tax increase on their products that will appear on Missouri's ballot on Nov. 5. The coalition said Tuesday that it formed a campaign committee called â€œMissourians Against Unfai
If approved by voters, the measure would raise Missouri's cigarette tax to 72 cents from the current 17 cents a pack. Taxes on other tobacco products would rise 20 percent.
The proposal is projected to generate $342 million annually, which would be divided among health care treatment and hospitals, life sciences research, anti-smoking efforts and early childhood programs. Those same areas already are supposed to receive funding from Missouri's legal settlement with big tobacco companies. But Gov. Bob Holden has instead used much of the settlement money to cover shortfalls in other parts of Missouri's budget.
The tobacco group is the second to announce opposition to the ballot measure. The Missouri Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association previously announced plans to place placards atop gas pumps and distribute fliers opposing the tax.
Both groups say the tax increase could prompt smokers to buy cigarettes in neighboring states or over the Web, hurting Missouri businesses. They also contend the 324 percent tax increase on cigarettes places an unfair burden on one segment of Missourians.
Ron Spidle, a spokesman for the new opposition group, said, if voters approve the tobacco tax increase, proposals may follow to raise taxes on other so-called vices, such as alcohol or fast food.
â€œThey're wanting to tax something just to be taxing, without having a super good reason,'' said Spidle, owner of the Smokes for Less chain, which has six stores in Missouri and seven in Kansas. â€œThere's no accountability for anything. If they are going to tax tobacco, what's next?''
The tobacco tax was placed on the ballot through an initiative petition presented by Citizens for a Healthy Missouri, a coalition composed of hospitals, other health organizations and business groups in St. Louis and Kansas City. The supporting group said two weeks ago that it had $2 million on hand for its campaign and planned to raise more money.
Spidle said the new opposing group had not set a fund-raising goal nor decided how to run its advertising campaign. Members of Missourians Against Unfair Taxes include the Missouri Council for Burley Tobacco, Philip Morris, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Co., Lorillard Tobacco Co., Brown and Williamson Tobacco Corp., the Smokeless Tobacco Council and the Missouri Wholesale Distributors Association.