Your Opinion: Tobacco tax increase favored

Dear Editor:

Were you as surprised as I to receive a robo-call that Proposition B would fund Obamacare? What’s this about? What is Prop B?

Prop B is a ballot initiative to increase the state tobacco excise tax from 17 cents per pack, (lowest in nation) to 90 cents per pack (to be in lowest one-third in nation and lower than our border states’ average).

Recently, the Missouri Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association (MPCA) has become increasingly reckless with exaggerated claims of supposed harm from Proposition B.

Their first TV ad called Prop B another scheme by politicians to raise taxes and create a slush fund for special interests. It wasn’t politicians, but over 200,000 registered voters who signed a petition to let the people decide where most legislators ducked the issue. And the “special interests” for this slush fund? Public school districts, state colleges, and programs to help smokers quit and keep kids from becoming new addicts.

This last “special interest” has MPCA frantically scurrying to deceive voters. Did you even hear the words “tobacco tax” in their robo-call? Those in the business of selling cigarettes know a higher tax discourages kids from becoming future addicts and encourages more adult smokers to quit. What is even more frightening to MPCA, this “special interest” will have funding to help smokers quit.

Prop B can lead to a 12 percent reduction in teen smoking and prevent over 40,000 Missouri kids from starting to smoke. Over 30,000 adult smokers will likely quit smoking, and over 20,000 premature deaths from smoking-caused diseases will be prevented in a few years.

MPCA has since changed their TV ad to claim the tax revenue would fund Obamacare. Given key legislators’ pointed opposition to Obamacare, they’re disingenuous in making such a ludicrous claim.

Prop B will result in huge health care cost savings over five years — $5 million from fewer cases of lung cancer, $12 million from fewer heart attacks and strokes. Longer term, Missouri can save $1.4 billion from health care cost savings from reduced smoking.

If MPCA were forced to practice truth in advertising, they’d have to admit they’re only concerned about maximizing profits from a highly addictive and deadly drug at the expense of the health and lives of Missourians, and the education and future of our kids.

A yes vote on Prop B will save lives while reducing health care costs.

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