Battle over raising the cigarette tax in Amendment 3

ST. LOUIS (KPLR) – Is it time to raise Missouri's cigarette taxes? There are two such proposals on the November 8 ballot. One would approve a new statute. "Proposition A" would phase in a higher tax of $.23 per pack of cigarettes over a three-year period. Revenue collected under the additional tax would be spent on Missouri's transportation infrastructure. The state legislature has long struggled to find a means of financing the improvement of Missouri roads and bridges.

But the more complicated ballot initiative is Constitutional Amendment 3.

It would raise as much as $375 million a year for early childhood education and healthcare as well as programs to help people quit smoking.

It is a measure that would hike taxes by $.60 a pack on all brands of cigarettes.  It adds an extra $.67 tax on packs of off-brand cigarettes.

Amendment 3 supporter Jane Dueker predicts approval of the measure will stop manufacturers from "dumping" cheap cigarettes in Missouri. It would also produce the revenue to invest in preschool education for thousands of Missouri children. However, opponents from prominent health organizations like the American Cancer Society, the American heart Association and the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids are opposing this ballot initiative. Opponent Dena Ladd from the group Missouri Cures said Tuesday the opposition comes because Amendment 3 is being funded by big tobacco. Her concern is that the constitutional amendment "stigmatizes medical research, in particular stem cell research."

Established tobacco firms including R. J. Reynolds are supporting the constitutional amendment. The measure closes what has been called a loophole in Missouri's structure for the national tobacco lawsuit settlement fund. New cigarette producers were not included in that agreement and therefore have not been contributing to the multimillion dollar fund which pays states like Missouri each year. The court settlement was reached because of the tobacco industry's failure to warn consumers regarding the dangers of cigarette smoking.

Critics like the Missouri Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association argue Amendment Three unfairly taxes businesses which sell off-brand tobacco products. The additional assessment levied on these newer tobacco producers would raise fees by 747%.  Those funds would also go into the Trust Fund for Early Childhood Education in Missouri.

A simple majority is needed to approve Amendment 3 and change Missouri's Constitution.