Time For Missouri To Lose Its Hillbilly Status on Cigarettes

cigarette machine.jpg
Cigarette machine or Missouri voting booth? You decide!
Fred Teutenberg would call Missouri "the last refuge of the persecuted smoker."

That's one way to describe the state with the lowest cigarette taxes in the nation. Another would be to call it a hillbilly outlier, and justifiably so. When even such tobacco-producing states as South Carolina have recently raised taxes on cigarettes, what's keeping Missouri from doing the same?

Answers:
1) Missouri's red-state mentality, which refuses to see any taxes, even our ridiculously low cigarette tax, as possibly benefiting the economic health of the state. (Not to mention the health of our citizens.)

2) The burdensome Hancock Amendment that requires a statewide vote for any measure that could have Missourians paying a greater share of their personal income in taxes than they did in 1981.

Now the American Cancer Society is hoping to clear those hurdles by taking the measure directly to the people and offering them an educated alternative -- quite literally.

Yesterday the agency and like-minded supporters filed a petition with the Missouri Secretary of State to begin collecting signatures for a 2012 ballot initiative to raise the tax on cigarettes. The proposal would hike the tax up to 80 cents per pack. Of the $308 million in revenue the higher tax could generate, 50 percent would go to primary and secondary education, 30 percent would go to colleges and universities and 20 would go to smoking prevention and cessation programs.

Supporters of the initiative hope to get it on the November 2012 ballot. Similar attempts to increase the state cigarette tax failed at the polls in 2002 and 2006, although Missouri didn't have the "Cheapest Cigs in the Land" title back then. 

It's worth noting, too, that an 80-cent tax would still make Missouri among the cheapest states in the nation to purchase cigarettes -- and certainly a distant cry from the $2-and-up tax that 20 percent of states charge.

Moreover, who can argue with using proceeds from the tax to fund education in Missouri? The tax would take from the reckless and/or ignorant (however you want to define Missouri smokers) and reward those intent on improving their lives. With all due respect to Fred Teutenberg and his Cheapo Depot cigarette emporiums, what's not to like about that? 

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18 comments
Fhsua
Fhsua

And also... Artomatics are a douchily hipster project. Y'all want to turn art into smokables I with you.

Fhsua
Fhsua

Taxes pleeeeease ! I'd like to see some taxes on them non hillbilly items like personal electronics and thick plastic glasses and fancy clothes and such to help offset the cost of my smoking.

Thomas Plummer
Thomas Plummer

It's also worth noting that trying to enforce morality with taxation in the name of the public good isn't far of from fascism.

Mntvernon
Mntvernon

"The tax would take from the reckless and/or ignorant (however you want to define Missouri smokers) and reward those intent on improving their lives."Really Chad? Then I suppose that might include both the secondary:http://www.stltoday.com/news/l...and higher education:http://www.news-leader.com/app...that have really, really reaped rewards.If you're really intent on looking for ignoramuses to steal from, you might search elsewhere.... like a mirror.

Your Momma
Your Momma

Two Points:

1) Taxing things to make them psuedo legal is a dirty trick. Governments do this when they can't make something illegal due to sentiment, the pesky Constitution, etc. So instead of an outright ban, they attempt to tax it to death. This is what they tried to do with drugs, because it was accepted to be unconstitutional to ban them, public sentiment changes (although law and the constitution did not, and instead the government assumed powers it did not have an has ever since actually banned them instead. Tax is conceived as a means to fund a government to provide for the greater good, not to be abused as a weapon to attack things decided to be undesirable. 

2) "Requiring a Vote" is democracy in action, not burdensome. 

Davented
Davented

PS Chad: do you drink Chad? Do you play lottery Chad? What vices do you have that we will target and raise the tax on again and again. It's called "selective taxation" and it's a form of profiling. We all agree "profiling" is a form of discrimination right Chad? By all means...lets go after the "evil smokers" and make them pay.....

Davented
Davented

So Missouri is last in cig tax? Big deal! I see this has a good thing. I have problems with RFT writers, (er.. Chad Garrison) that resorts to calling us smokers..."reckless and ignorant". That's right Amercian Cancer Society....prop up your deficit education funding once again on the backs of of us "vice users". Didn't the Missouri lottery just give billions (record amount) to education?  Let's put lotto ticket prices on the Nov. ballad.....after all Chad...it's for education..whats not to like about that?

HWL
HWL

So an estimated $62 million on smoking prevention and cessation programs?  Any detail on that spending?  Sounds like billboards, print ads and payroll for those state employees charged with administering said prevention and cessation programs. 

someguy
someguy

you can tax cigs as much as you want but if we still have kids bringing their mom's crack pipe to show-and-tell it won't make a difference. And since when is higher taxes on vices (alcohol, cigs) associated with non-hillbillyness?

Mike N.
Mike N.

Did you intentionally post a pic of an Art-o-Mat?  (I believe that's the one at the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento).  Art-o-Mat is a cool project, and a nice repurposing of cigarette machines!

But anyway, it does seem a little embarrasing that you can buy a carton of 'ultra-low-tier' cigs for $17 and change in Missouri.  The Dirt Cheap on Telegraph does a booming business from Illionois customers.  Even though there's a sign on the IL side of the JB bridge warning that bringing more than three cartons of cigarettes into the state is illegal, people regularly buy 5 or more cartons to bring back home to Illinois. 

landolincoln
landolincoln

It's not about going after the person, it's about targeting an undesirable habit and the health concerns that it presents.  If the cost goes up, maybe you quit.  Similar motivation is presented when the doc says you are pre-emphysema.

landolincoln
landolincoln

How could we better describe smokers?  Let's see...we know that what we are doing is killing us and possibly those around us.  But I just can't stop because it really takes the edge off!  I'd be all for throwing this money at anti-smoking education campaigns but apparently it wouldn't do much good.  We've all heard the health concerns and seen the pictures of blackened lungs and smoking is still prevalent.

Chad Garrison
Chad Garrison

Gee, no. I just thought it was a high-brow cigarette machine. You know, dispensing those "fancy" cigarettes like Dunhill and Davidoffs. 

Thomas Plummer
Thomas Plummer

It's also worth noting that trying to enforce morality with taxation in the name of the public good is  fascism.

Your Momma
Your Momma

I agree. Let's levy a 500% tax on automobiles. 

Maybe you'll quit. 

Thomas Plummer
Thomas Plummer

and that is your choice. people also eat red meat, go to McDonalds, and watch television while sitting, all of which lead to health problems as provable and more consistantly than Ciggarettes. Should we add a 400% tax to those items too?

hotdogwaffles
hotdogwaffles

sa-weet! just cars or those little vespas too?

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