Missouri may soon become the state with the lowest tax in the country….at least on cigarettes. It won’t because of what Missouri has done, but rather, what it hasn’t.
If South Carolina passes its tax hikes on cigarette packs, Missouri, by default, will become the state with the lowest taxes on cigarettes in the country at 17 cents per pack. That’s $1.26 less than the state average.
The rank comes at a time when high numbers of Missourians are lighting up.
Retired Major General Jon Hall has tried to quit smoking twice, both unsuccessfully.
“I started smoking when I was about 12…and the only reason I did that is that my older brother told me that if I was going to hang around them, I had to smoke.”
His older brother died of lung cancer.
“He was younger than I am, and I’m still going fairly strong.”
Hall is part of a statistic ranking Missouri fourth in the nation for percentage of adult smokers. With one in four Missourians lighting-up.
House Democrat Jamilah Nasheed is sponsoring a bill to raise taxes on cigarettes to 33 cents. She wants the $90 million for the budget.
The bill’s hearing is not yet on the calendar, but to get the smoking rate down, cardiologist Dr. Arun Kumar has another idea.
“The effect of smoking on our overall health care costs is immense, and if we focus our energies on preventing people from smoking in the beginning we’ll be far better off,” Kumar said.
The Center for Disease Control says Missouri now only uses 1.7 percent of the recommended amount of money to curb smoking.
As for Hall, he’s not swayed.
“I’m taking two drugs right now that are suppose to make me stop and I’m taking them right along with cigarettes.”
Republican state representative Ed Emery said it is not the government’s job to manipulate people’s behavior with taxes. However, he did say he would consider a bill that cuts taxes for those who do not smoke, while hiking taxes for those who do.