Petitions submitted for Mo. tobacco tax increase

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Advocates submitted petition signatures Friday to get a proposed increase in the state’s cigarette tax on the November ballot.

The proposal would raise Missouri’s tax on cigarettes to 90 cents per pack up from the current 17 cents, which is the lowest in the nation. It also would increase taxes on other tobacco products while steering the additional money to education and smoking cessation and prevention programs.

The measure’s backers, which include the American Cancer Society, said they submitted nearly 220,000 signatures to the secretary of state’s office. To make the ballot, the proposal must garner between 91,818 and 99,600 valid signatures from registered voters. It will be up to local election officials to verify signatures and the secretary of state’s office to certify the measure for the ballot.

However, a trial judge in Cole County is scheduled to consider a legal challenge to the ballot summary for the tobacco tax on Monday.

Misty Snodgrass, of the American Cancer Society, said the initiative would improve public health and help school districts, colleges and universities. She said the signatures show there is broad support for the idea.

This would be the third time in the past decade that a tobacco tax increase has appeared on the Missouri ballot. A 55 cents per pack increase was defeated in 2002 by roughly 31,000 votes. In 2006, an 80 cents per pack increase was rejected.

Opponents of other tobacco tax proposals have said lower tobacco taxes lure customers from other states, who contribute to Missouri’s economy by purchasing more than just tobacco products.

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