Cigarette Smoking Kills: Should Missourians Vote Yes To Raise Cigarette Taxes?

Recent statistics show that cigarette smoking is  responsible for 167, 133 cancer deaths annually in the US or 29% of all cancer deaths.

Cigarette smoking also kills annually in the US  160,000 people by promoting cardiovascular disease.

Thus, from a health standpoint we should be doing everything possible to stigmatize and make more difficult cigarette smoking.

One approach to this is to tax cigarettes, raising the financial burden of smoking. Across the US, therefore, states have added cigarettes taxes which average 1.65$ per pack.

My state of Missouri has the lowest state tax on cigarettes of 17 cents per pack. Multiple ballot attempts to raise this amount have failed in the past.

However, on this Tuesday’s ballot there are two competing options that we can  vote on that will raise cigarette taxes: Amendment 3 (raises cig taxes  60 cents and earmarks funds for a newly created Early Childhood Education and Research Fund) and Proposition A (raises taxes 23 cents and earmarks funds for infrastructure.) (Links are to Ballotpedia, a reputable source of information nationwide.)

I’ve been researching both of these proposals over the last few days since receiving an email from a physician colleague urging  me to vote no on Amendment 3. Remarkably, a coalition of health organizations (The American Cancer Society Cancer Action NetworkAmerican Heart AssociationAmerican Lung Association in MissouriCampaign for Tobacco-Free KidsHealth Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City and Tobacco-Free Missouri) has come out against the propositions to raise cigarette taxes with the following statement :

Small increases to the tobacco tax – like the proposals being considered – will generate new revenue, but will not keep kids from becoming addicted to cigarettes or help adults quit.Tobacco taxes work when the price increase is substantial enough to motivate current smokers to quit and prevent kids from starting. A dime here or there is not sufficient. Tobacco companies are adept at finding ways to absorb small tax increases through adjusted pricing. What’s worse, these marginal increases could hamper future efforts; promising profitable returns for the tobacco industry at the continued expense of Missourians’ health…

Tobacco products in Missouri are too cheap and the health costs are too high. Our state is long overdue for a tobacco tax increase, but it needs to be one that will make a difference and save lives. A meaningful tobacco tax increase – of $1.00 per pack or more – has proven time and again to be an effective way to reduce tobacco use, cut healthcare costs and generate state revenue.[7]

Our local public radio station had a good discussion recently which is summarized here.

I found the PRO comments of Jane Dueker particularly persuasive as summarized below:

PRO: Jane Dueker wants people to vote “Yes” on Constitutional Amendment 3. Here are her main points:

Jane Dueker is a proponent of Constitutional Amendment 3.
CREDIT KELLY MOFFITT | ST. LOUIS PUBLIC RADIO
  • This tax would provide $300 million in funding for early childhood education, healthcare and smoking cessation programs. Right now, Missouri can’t even fund the K-12 Foundation Formula, so any extra funding is needed for early childhood education.

  • By filing this as an amendment, we were able to make a constitutional “lock box” that would keep the legislature and special interests from taking money that is specifically dedicated to this fund, like what happened with lottery funds.

  • Right now, only 3 percent of 4-year-olds in Missouri are in a publicly-funded preschool. Missouri is behind states like Oklahoma with 76 percent, Illinois with 27 percent and Arkansas with 38 percent.

  • Higher tobacco taxes have failed in 2002, 2006 and 2012. This is more reasonable and we don’t have a clause that says another tobacco tax could not be added on top of this one to give that “sticker shock” to consumers.

  • This closes a loophole that kept cheap cigarette companies from paying their fair share into a 1998 court settlement to recover some of state governments’ tobacco-related health-care costs. Now, smaller tobacco companies would pay a 67-cents-a-pack hike on low-cost cigarettes in addition to the 60 cent tax on all cigarettes. This would give Missouri $1 billion annually we currently don’t get. Missouri is the only state that hasn’t closed this loophole and the state is a “dumping ground” for the cheapest cigarettes in the country.

  • Groups that oppose this either think the tax is not high enough (health groups) or that they don’t get money from this fund (pro-choice and research institutions).

  • Missouri’s Foundation Formula public school funding starts at kindergarten and cannot fund early childhood education. This money could go to public or private early childhood education entities in a way it would not be distributed through the foundation formula.

  • $15-30 million dollars would be raised through this tax that would go to smoking cessation programs.

  • The fund will be administered by a board of unelected people because they have special experience in early childhood education. A “person of faith” is required on the board because of their position as a community anchor.

At this point, I’m leaning toward voting yes on Amendment 3 but confused as to why RJ Reynolds is supporting it to the tune of 12 million dollars and the “good guy” health organizations oppose it. I’d appreciate any input/comments on this from readers. I strongly urge everyone to read and learn as much as you can about the issue before walking into the voting booth.

By the way, I recently observed this Canadian cigarette package img_7957which I think excellently conveys the horror of cigarette smoking.

Truthily Yours

-ACP

Some more  stats to ponder from the CDC

Cigarette smoking causes premature death:

  • Life expectancy for smokers is at least 10 years shorter than for nonsmokers.
  • Quitting smoking before the age of 40 reduces the risk of dying from smoking-related disease by about 90%.

Exposure to secondhand smoke causes an estimated 41,000 deaths each year among adults in the United States:

  • Secondhand smoke causes 7,333 annual deaths from lung cancer.
  • Secondhand smoke causes 33,951 annual deaths from heart disease.

9 thoughts on “Cigarette Smoking Kills: Should Missourians Vote Yes To Raise Cigarette Taxes?”

  1. Here is Mass., our cigarette taxes are very high and the smoking rate has fallen dramatically. We raise less money than projected but I’d rather raise $0.

    Correlation or causation, I know not which, but the states with the highest cigarette taxes have the lowest smoking rates.

  2. I believe I will also vote yes on amendment 3 because something, in this case, seems to be better than nothing. I am bothered by the fact that Big Tobacco is behind it. I also think it is sad that lawmakers don’t have the cajones to put something on the table that really has the ability to end smoking in this country. Tobacco companies could hardly care less IOC we all stop smoking as long as they can still target overseas, but they will hang on to the U.S. business as long as they can.

  3. This is tough. My heart says vote yes for both but it’s hard to argue with the stats that a larger increase is needed to impact smoking addiction. I also worry that passing this small increase will prevent future efforts to raise the taxes high enough to impact the public health problem. In the end we are left with a regressive tax – I’m against anything to put more financial pressure on the poor/working class/lower middle class.

    1. Thanks for your comments! I’ll address your points in a subsequent post. Can you tell me what the evidence is that “a larger increase is needed to impact smoking addiction.?”

  4. I am leaning against supporting Amendment 3. The tax increase I don’t think will significantly decrease tobacco sales. Big tobacco is supporting it in order to hurt the generic manufacturers. It is incredibly cynical – similar to the “free beer cooler” law passed by our esteemed legislature earlier this year, whereby beer companies are allowed to “donate” beer coolers to retailers (primarily convenience stores). Guess which beer companies have the wherewithal to do so? It’s damn sure not the craft/microbreweries. The bill was essentially written by InBev. Missouri arguably has the most corrupt political system in the USA right now, due to the lack of any sort of meaningful campaign contribution disclosure laws.

    Even if Amendment 3 passes Missouri will still have some of the lowest cigarette taxes in the nation. Disgraceful for a non (or insignificant) tobacco growing state.

    1. The argument that this increase will not lower cigarette smoking seems to be a “smoke” screen to me.
      Certainly the people at The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids think it will:

      It is amazing that the cigarette companies’ lobbyists and allies continue to make this argument with a straight face despite the absence of any facts to support it. Moreover, the cigarette companies have actually stated, both publicly and in internal company documents disclosed in tobacco lawsuits, that raising cigarette prices through state tobacco tax increases or other means significantly reduces smoking, especially among kids and lower-income communities. That fact is also well established by scientific research and by the actual experiences of states that have raised their tax rates. [See the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids (TFK) Factsheet, Raising Cigarette Taxes Reduces Smoking, Especially Among Kids (and the Cigarette Companies Know It), http://tobaccofreekids.org/research/factsheets/pdf/0146.pdf

      Do you really care if the generic manufacturers are hurt by the tax?
      They, unlike the big tobacco companies, aren’t contributing to smoking cessation programs.

      Isn’t any increase in the tax better than none, even if it leaves Missouri still among the lowest States for cigarette taxation?

  5. When my strong mother finally wound up in our large local hospital with COPD (40 years of 2 packs a day of Lucky Strike), I took the opportunity to visit every inmate of the pulmonary ward. I politely asked the single question: “Have you been a smoker?”. I had to make the rounds a few times to catch people when off their nebulizer or oxygen mask.
    Final tally: they all smoked.

    The tax needs to be high enough to kill the industry. Those who are sympathetic to “poor/working class/lower middle class” tobacco industry workers have to understand the deaths they are subsidizing.

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