A proposed amendment to the Missouri Constitution that would increase the tobacco tax will be on the November ballot, thanks to the decision of Cole County Circuit Judge Thomas Brown.
The initiative, which was declared invalid by the secretary of state's office, would increase the tax on cigarettes from 17 cents to 97 cents per pack. It would also increase the tax on other tobacco products, including chew and cigars, from 10 percent to 30 percent of the product's cost.
Initially, the initiative, which was proposed by the process of petition, was determined to be lacking signatures in the 5th Congressional District. After closer inspection by the Cole County Circuit Court, more than 1,000 of those signatures were declared valid.
Once a petition is submitted to the secretary of state's office, the signatures are divided by county and sent to the local election officials, who determine the validity of signatures.
"Counties validate signatures based on voter records," said Stacie Temple, a spokeswoman for the secretary of state's office. "They exclude non-registered voters, voters registered in different counties, duplicate signatures and signatures that don't match the signature on file."
Once the secretary of state's office reported that the petition was lacking signatures, the supporters of the initiative filed a lawsuit to overturn that decision. In court, Brown validated more than 1,000 additional signatures, which means that the initiative will be on the ballot in November.
The Missourians Against Tax Abuse is concerned with the decision to place this initiative on the ballot and is appealing the decision.
"Missourians Against Tax Abuse doesn't have a problem with raising the tax on cigarettes and expanding health care," said Patrick Cacchione of MATA. "The problem is that this is a decreasing funding source. Once the tax is in place, people will quit smoking, which is good, but it causes funding problems."
Domingo Pacheco of Peers Against Secondhand Smoke said he is more concerned about the benefits to the health of Missourians than the decrease in tobacco sales.
"Across the board, statistics have shown that initiation rates among young adults drop proportionally to the amount of the tobacco excise tax," Pacheco said. "Missourians will be more healthy, period."
Other health organizations believe this tax will be beneficial to the state and its citizens, especially considering that Missouri has the second-lowest tobacco tax in the country.
"If approved, the tobacco tax would create millions of dollars that would go to protecting the health of Missouri," said Michelle Bernth of the American Lung Association.