It's one of those hyper-divisive issues, and it's on the ballot on Nov. 6. Why is Proposition B so divisive?
Well, for starters, it involves two relatively unpopular practices: raising taxes and smoking. But here's the thing: If you don't smoke, do you really care about raising taxes on smokers? And if you smoke, are you ever going to vote for a hike in tobacco taxes?
That's what Prop B is about. In basic English, the measure would boost state taxes from 17 to 90 cents on name-brand cigarettes. For off-brands, the state tax would rise to $1.47 a pack.
In the less-plain language of the actual ballot question, Prop B would:
- create the Health and Education Trust Fund with proceeds of a tax of 3.65 cents per cigarette and 25 percent of the manufacturer's invoice price for roll-your-own tobacco and 15 percent for other tobacco products;
- use Fund proceeds to reduce and prevent tobacco use and for elementary, secondary, college, and university public school funding; and
- increase the amount that certain tobacco product manufacturers must maintain in their escrow accounts, to pay judgments or settlements, before any funds in escrow can be refunded to the tobacco product manufacturer and create bonding requirements for these manufacturers?
In the shorthand of the opponents, the measure amounts to a 760 percent tax increase, and they say that's just not acceptable. In fact, they argue that the increase would actually lower proceeds, by reducing sales.
Is that such a bad thing? Proponents such as the Rockwood Drug-Free Coalition said in a letter to the editor on Patch that the tax would "reduce tobacco use rates, and will generate approximately $283 million in annual revenue at a time when our state desperately needs these funds." The coalition argues the state's lowest-in-the-nation tobacco tax supports addictive behavior and harms the health of its residents.
In an editorial, the Suburban Journals support Proposition B for a number of reasons, including the potential reduction in the number of smokers, the increase in revenue, which can be used for anti-smoking educational programs, and the "level playing field" in which Missouri smokers pay comparable taxes to neighboring states.
That's the set-up for this week's conversation starter. Do you support an increase in tobacco taxes? Why or why not? Are you a smoker? Does that make a difference in your opinion?