Your Opinion: Protecting money from tobacco tax

Dear Editor:

On behalf of Show-Me a Brighter Future, an effort to increase Missouri’s lowest-inthe-nation cigarette tax, being led by the American Cancer Society and its advocacy affiliate, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, and other educational and health organizations, I am writing in response to the Jefferson City News Tribune’s recent editorial.

We wholeheartedly agree that the continued diversion of tobacco funds is detrimental to the citizens of Missouri. The state’s paltry funding of smoking cessation programs is well below the levels recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

As a result, Missouri smokers who want to quit don’t have access to the necessary resources to help them do so.

About 21 percent of adults and 19.5 percent of high school students in Missouri are smokers, giving Missouri the dubious distinction of having the 11th highest smoking rate in the nation. Additionally, 8,600 Missouri youth under the age of 18 become new smokers each year. The continuation of this trend is simply unacceptable.

Our proposal that will appear on the November ballot will generate an additional $283 million annually in new revenue for the state. Twenty percent of the revenue will be used to establish local and statewide tobacco prevention, education and cessation programs.

As the News Tribune accurately points out, this initiative will not include a constitutional guarantee, as many voters object to putting something this specific into the state constitution.

However, there will be the necessary safeguards in place to ensure that the revenue from this initiative is spent as voters intended.

These safeguards include language in the ballot measure to ensure that the money will not replace funding that is already in place, but rather add to existing funding to promote positive and lasting change. Another safeguard in place is that this ballot measure establishes the Health and Education Trust Fund. The tobacco tax proceeds will be directly deposited into this fund, which is intentionally separate from the state’s general revenue, thereby ensuring the money is allocated properly.

Most importantly, the organizations behind this initiative are committed to working closely with our broad base of Missouri supporters to hold the Legislature accountable for spending the funds as voters intended.

Issue-oriented letters to the editor in response to this or about other local topics are welcome. All letters should be limited to 400 words. The author's name must appear with the letter, and the name, address and phone number provided for verification. Letters that cannot be verified by telephone will not be published. Send letters for publication to editor@newstribune.com

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