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 Network, American Heart Association, American Lung Association in Missouri, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City and Tobacco-Free Missouri) has come out against the propositions to raise cigarette taxes with the following statement :
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:
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.
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.