The Missouri Students Association and the Associated Students of the University of Missouri gathered Wednesday night in Wrench Auditorium to host a forum about the tobacco tax.
The Tobacco Tax Forum featured speakers such as Rep. Chris Kelly, D-District 24, and Missouri Petroleum Marketer and Convenience Store Association Executive Director Ron Leone.
The forum was held to inform voters of Proposition B, which proposes a 73-cent tax increase on tobacco products and allocates $283 million to K-12 education, higher education and smoking cessation programs.
Leone said because the cigarette sales tax will be higher, Missouri residents will choose to travel to border states, which will result in less revenue for the state.
Currently, Missouri has the lowest cigarette tax in the nation, at just 17 cents per pack.
Kelly said the revenue from the tobacco tax would go toward higher education. He said none of the revenue would likely go toward health-related issues, such as mental health.
Leone said he disagrees.
“There’s no guarantee that $100 million won’t be appropriated to something else,” he said.
Leone also said it is almost impossible for large amounts of revenue to be directly appropriated to one absolute cause.
The tax on tobacco would only be paid by those who purchase cigarettes in Missouri. Leone said this makes the tax ineffective.
“When you’re thinking of taxing a population that’s ever decreasing, that’s a crazy fiscal policy,” Leone said.
Leone said if Proposition B passes, Missouri would sell more than 100,000 fewer packs of cigarettes. He said this would decrease sales tax and require voters to fill the gaps in to keep up with previous revenue.
Kelly said an increase in cigarette tax would have the most impact on teenagers.
“If we can stop teenagers from smoking, the state of Missouri will save hundreds of millions of dollars,” he said.
Approximately 19.5 percent of high school students smoke and 8,600 Missouri kids start smoking every year.
The health consequences of tobacco are also an issue, Leone said.
“Not one dime is required to treat tobacco-related illnesses,” he said. Leone went on to say that none of the revenue from this proposed tax would go toward healthcare for smoking related illnesses.
Show-Me A Brighter Future, a group led by various educational and health organizations, outlined a few problems with Proposition B.
According to their May 2012 Future Fact Sheet, “Missourians are dying earlier due to preventable illnesses; Missouri has the 39th lowest life expectancy in the country with decreased life expectancy due to smoking.”
Of these tobacco-related illnesses, the organization reports Missouri has some of the highest smoking, lung cancer and heart disease rates in the country. Approximately 9,500 Missourians die each year due to smoking related illnesses and disease.
“This is your opportunity to the government to say ‘Enough is enough’ by voting ‘No’ on Proposition B,” Leone said.
Leone closed by saying Proposition B is too big and too much for Missouri.
Kelly closed the forum by saying if MU students care about the value of their degree and their institution, they would vote “Yes” on Proposition B.
“Mizzou needs your help,” he said. “Do not leave Mizzou hanging.”