Show Me Smoke?

up-in-smoke

It’s been on the ballot before, but the folks in the State of Missouri have voted to keep the tax on cigarette among the lowest in the land, but next fall there will be yet another measure aimed at raising the price of a pack of smokes by a quarter or more.

“The politics are trending toward increasing it,” said Peverill Squire, a political scientist at the University of Missouri. “The question is by how much.”

And — as detailed by Scott Canon of the Kansas City Star — one of the initiatives lining up to benefit from an increased tax is the Missouri Promise campaign, which is backed by the state’s higher education community. University of Missouri President Tim Wolfe has endorsed a $1-a-pack increase for scholarships, which would still leave the state well below the national average on cigarette taxation. That type of increase would raise more than $300 million in year one (and might stop people from smoking, which would benefit the state in healthcare costs).

On the other side of the state, the editorial board of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has given the tax a thumbs’ up, whether it supports early childhood education — like the Raise Your Hands For Kids initiative — or the Missouri Promise higher ed plan.

“By admitting that the tobacco tax is ripe for a reasonable increase, [lobbyist Ron Leone] has provided a service to voters,” wrote the Post-Dispatch editorial board. “That is a big deal. Now it is time for people who care about economic development to settle on a strategy to correct Missouri’s course on its current race-to-the-bottom trajectory.”

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