FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Jennifer Sykes, Health Forward
Jill Courtney, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network
Jefferson City, MO – In response to two proposed plans that inadequately increase Missouri’s lowest-in-the-nation tobacco tax, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Heart Association, American Lung Association in Missouri, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Health Forward Foundation and Tobacco-Free Missouri issued the following statement:
“It is alarming and deceitful for the tobacco industry to support two insufficient tobacco tax proposals in our state under the guise of concern about education and transportation funding. Small increases to the tobacco tax – like the proposals being considered – will generate new revenue, but will not keep kids from becoming addicted to cigarettes or help adults quit.
“Tobacco taxes work when the price increase is substantial enough to motivate current smokers to quit and prevent kids from starting. A dime here or there is not sufficient. Tobacco companies are adept at finding ways to absorb small tax increases through adjusted pricing. What’s worse, these marginal increases could hamper future efforts; promising profitable returns for the tobacco industry at the continued expense of Missourians’ health.
“As organizations dedicated to improving public health, we have long been leaders in the fight against tobacco. The tobacco industry has an extensive history of directly opposing proven tobacco control measures in Missouri and across the country, and this is no exception. Make no mistake: the industry’s support for these small increases is merely to improve their image while lining their pockets. All previous efforts to raise Missouri’s tobacco tax by meaningful amounts have been thwarted by those who profit from smoking addiction – convenience stores and cigarette manufacturers. R.J. Reynolds’ recent contributions totaling more than $1.27 million in support of a tobacco tax proposal are unprecedented.
“R.J. Reynolds, best known for their infamous Joe Camel cartoon, is notorious for its aggressive efforts to lure kids into smoking. Undoubtedly, it is profit – not public health – that is the true motivation behind the tobacco industry’s sudden support of such a small tax, and they should not be determining Missouri’s public health policy.
“Tobacco products in Missouri are too cheap and the health costs are too high. Our state is long overdue for a tobacco tax increase, but it needs to be one that will make a difference and save lives. A meaningful tobacco tax increase – of $1.00 per pack or more – has proven time and again to be an effective way to reduce tobacco use, cut health care costs and generate state revenue.
“We will continue to advocate for evidence-based tobacco control policies that are proven to save lives.”