To The Editor:
I would like to discuss a very important issue that has not yet received much publicity in our region, Proposition B. The voters of Missouri will decide Tuesday, Nov. 6, whether or not to raise the cigarette tax in our state by 73 cents for a total of 90 cents per pack. The Show Me State unfortunately has the embarrassment of having the lowest cigarette tax in the nation of 17 cents per pack. The current average cigarette tax for the states that border Missouri is $1.02.
Smoking-related health care costs in Missouri are estimated to be $7.61 per pack of cigarettes sold in our state. Unfortunately, this means that all Missouri taxpayers must pick up the tab for $532 million of annual smoking-related health care bills. On a more personal level this means that the average Missouri taxpayer must pay about $565 every year to pay for the health care costs of those who choose to smoke.
The addiction to tobacco is very powerful and quitting is not easy, but treatments are available and each person who has the desire to quit should make an appointment to discuss quitting with their doctor. For our young adults who are considering lighting up, please think hard about the long-term effects this addiction can have on yourself, your children and your country. There are more tobacco-related deaths in the United States than all other drug abuse deaths combined. Heroin, meth and prescription drug abuse are all terrible problems but tobacco abuse costs us more and kills more of us. These are the reasons that passing Proposition B is so important.
Most of us immediately stop listening when someone suggests that we should pay higher taxes, but there are a few circumstances where paying higher taxes can lead to positive changes for our community.
Fifty percent of the new tobacco tax revenue generated by Proposition B would go to fund local schools. Heaven knows we could use that advantage here. Twenty percent of the revenue would be dedicated to tobacco use prevention and tobacco cessation programs. That’s right; some of the money would be used to help people who are interested in quitting actually succeed and to help educate others about the need to never start. Thirty percent of the revenue would go to public colleges and universities statewide, again a wise use of resources.
But most importantly, other states have found that increased tobacco taxes lead to fewer smokers. The projected public health benefits of the new cigarette tax includes an 11.8 percent decrease in youth smoking, avoiding more than 8,000 smoking-affected births over the next five years, and millions of dollars in taxpayers’ savings for smoking-related health care costs in Missouri. This is a tax that will return great value to us if we have the insight to pass it.
I hope that each individual finds this information useful, and ask that you make an informed decision when you cast your vote next month. Please vote; many have died to provide us this freedom. It is clear that smoking in Missouri costs all taxpayers, probably much more than they previously realized. Join me and vote yes on the tobacco tax (Proposition B) on Tuesday, Nov. 6.