Date: May 4, 2012
Contact: Julie Sally
Phone: 816.994.9849 or 816.668.1143
Today, Show-Me A Brighter Future, a coalition of Missouri organizations and individuals led by the American Cancer Society, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network and other educational and health organizations, submitted nearly 220,000 Missouri petition signatures to the Secretary of State for certification that call for a tobacco tax increase initiative to be included on the November ballot.
The proposed petition initiative would help address Missouri’s health, smoking and school funding problems through a proposed $.73 tax increase per pack on cigarettes and an increased tax on other tobacco products by generating an additional $283 million in new revenue annually.
“Today proves that we have broad public support for a tobacco tax increase in Missouri,” said Misty Snodgrass, director of government affairs for the American Cancer Society. “Missouri is poised to reduce smoking, improve health and increase funding for the state’s public schools, colleges and universities.”
According to the group, Missourians are dying earlier from preventable tobacco-related illnesses and has the 39th lowest life expectancy in the country with decreased life expectancy due, in part, to smoking. Missouri has the 11th highest smoking rate in the country and the lowest tobacco tax, yet the state does not fund programs to help them quit. Along with the multiple health problems levied on Missourians, tobacco use costs each Missouri household $565 a year in public expenditures.
“The future health of Missouri depends on this initiative,” said Norm Siegel, board member, Health Forward Foundation. “Tobacco use takes an enormous health and economic toll on each and every Missouri family and a tobacco tax increase will go a long way to reduce that burden.”
The proposed ballot initiative would generate $279 million annually in new revenue for the state. The new monies come at a time when public schools are underfunded and families are being forced to make hard choices about higher education.
Revenue from the tobacco tax would be split three ways, with an emphasis on providing new funding for Missouri schools:
• 20% of revenue would fund much-needed prevention and cessation programs for smokers who want to quit and to keep kids from starting to smoke.
• 50% of revenue would go into Missouri’s elementary and secondary education classrooms. New funding for elementary and secondary education would help prevent staff reductions and increased classroom sizes.
• 30% of revenue would go to Missouri’s colleges and universities. New funding for higher education will support educational opportunities for tomorrow’s workforce and future caregivers.
“We are very encouraged and believe the time is right for this initiative in Missouri, ” said Warren Erdman, Kansas City business leader and former Chairman of the University of Missouri Board of Curators. “This ballot initiative provides Missourians with an important and timely opportunity to improve the state’s health outcomes, reduce the number of youth and adult smokers and provide badly needed support for students attending Missouri schools. This is a win-win for Missouri families.”