First, let me be clear...I'm not a fan of smoking. I don't do it and I can't really stand it. Also, it really irritates me to have to walk through a cloud of cigarette smoke just to enter our local retailers because many smokers don't have the courtesy to smoke away from the entrance. To those people, my children thank you for the brief cough as they enter the stores.
Now, to the subject at hand. It is being proposed that the State of Missouri increase the cigarette tax by 73 cents per pack, bringing the total tax to 90 cents per pack. The current cigarette tax of 17 cents per pack is the lowest in the nation, which brings the issue I have with this proposal.
With Missouri having the lowest cigarette tax in the nation, retailers at the state borders -- such as Mr. T's Riverside near Cardwell, Mo. -- are almost guaranteed to see smokers cross the border and purchase in Missouri in order to save some money, generating extra tax income for our state. Missouri borders eight states -- Iowa, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Nebraska.
With an average of five packs per week -- 260 packs per year -- each smoker from those neighboring states who crosses the border to buy in Missouri generates approximately $44 in tax revenue per year. Not to mention the extra revenue for the retailers.
According to the website, www.tobaccofreekids.com, the cigarette taxes in those neighboring states are as follows:
* Iowa -- $1.36
* Illinois -- $1.98
* Kentucky -- $0.60
* Tennessee -- $0.62
* Arkansas -- $1.15
* Oklahoma -- $1.03
* Kansas -- $0.79
* Nebraska -- $0.64
If the Missouri cigarette tax is increased to $0.90, we would almost certainly lose tax and general revenue from Kentucky, Tennessee, Kansas, and Nebraska. We would probably also lose revenue from Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Iowa, who would only be saving 13 cents, 25 cents, and 46 cents per pack, respectively. In my estimation, the only state who may continue to purchase in Missouri would be Illinois, who would still be saving $1.08 per pack.
Along with the loss of tax and general revenue from out-of-state purchasers, if Missouri smokers who live near the borders of Kentucky, Tennessee, Kansas, and Nebraska decide to cross the border and purchase in those states, we would lose even more money.
Could that loss be offset by the increase? Potentially, but no one can say for sure. I guess it really depends on how much our local smokers want to save.
The people behind the proposition are saying that the money will be used for education and programs aimed at keeping children away from tobacco. While the thought is a good one, I have my doubts with our state government spending the funds as they say.
I support tax increases where I know the money will be used and used correctly. Not an increase this large, but I do support increases. I also support finding ways to help our educational system do the most for our kids.
I guess my biggest issue would be worrying that our state government would spend the funds appropriately.
George Anderson is the managing editor of the Daily Dunklin Democrat.