Views on Amendment Three
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Views on Amendment Three

Date: October 31, 2006
By: Robbie Fisher
State Capitol Bureau

Intro: The Supreme Court added Amendment Three to the November 7th ballot a few weeks ago. Robbie Fisher has an in-depth look at the cigarette tax from the Capitol.

OutCue: SOC

In a few short days, voters will decide if raising the cigarette tax is the right choice for Missouri.

The proposed Amendment would increase the state's tobacco tax up to 97-cents a pack.

Missouri currently has the second lowest tax in the nation at 17-cents a pack, but would be comparable to the national average if Amendment Three passes.

Although the estimated 351-499 million dollars generated from this tax will go primarily toward health care programs and smoking cessation and prevention programs, critics like Ronald Leone say the state may be misleading voters.

Actuality:  LEONER1.WAV
Run Time: 00:10
Description: "The clear language of Amendment Three says that more than four out of five dollars is not required in any way shape or form to be spent on tobacco-related diseases and smoking cessation programs."

Leone, the executive director of the Missouri Petroleum Marketers and Convienience Store Association, says the state has already wasted hundreds of millions of dollars it received from the Smokeless Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement.

Among other steps, such as banning cartoon character in smoking ads, the 1998 Agreement forced tobacco companies to give states billions of dollars in health care compensation. 

According to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, the Missouri government has used almost none of these funds for tobacco prevention and cessation and currently ranks last in the nation in funding these kinds of programs.

The former CEO of the American Lung Association of Missouri, Cindy Erickson, says this ineptitude is the reason Amendment Three is so important.

Actuality:  ERICK1.WAV
Run Time: 00:14
Description: "Missouri voters, they want accountability, so that is exactly why we had to make this as a constitutional amendment because with a constitutional amendment it specifically states how these funds will be spent."

If Missouri passes Amendment Three and the funds are used as promised, critics say the economic fallout could be severe.

According to Leone, raising the tax will seriously hurt small business, especially when fewer customers are coming in from out of state.  Missouri currently has the lowest tax of any of its six border states, but would only be lower than Illinois and Oklahoma if Amendment Three passes.

Actuality:  LEONER2.WAV
Run Time: 00:21
Description: "Why in God's name would we approve a tax increase that would dry up that revenue stream from those consumers from our higher taxed border states? It's like shooting ourselves in the head. It makes absolutely no sense to give our competition an advantage over Missouri-based small businesses which is what Amendment Three ultimately would do."

Erickson says the economy would actually be helped by the tax because the nearly two billion dollars in smoking-caused health care costs and more than two million dollars in smoking-caused activity losses would be reduced. Erickson says it would be smokers and big tobacco companies may lose money, but these losses would be far outweighed by the health benefits the tax provides.

Actuality:  ERICK2.WAV
Run Time: 00:12
Description: "Their priority is to protect their tobacco profit, so if that is more important for Missourians than protecting children's health, maybe the tobacco tax wouldn't be such a good idea."

For every 10% in additional cigarette taxes, 4% of adults and 7% of children quit smoking, according to the Missouri Heart Association.  With over 17,000 Missouri children becoming addicted to cigarettes each year, the Heart Association says the anti-tobacco money could have a huge effect.

In a recent study conducted by the National Youth Risk Behavior Survey; however, it was concluded that the number of Missouri teens who smoke has decreased to below the national average in the past decade, but almost one quarter of adults still smoke.

It will be up to voters on November 7th to decide whether Amendment Three is the right answer for Missouri.