Amendment 3, which aimed to raise Missouri’s lowest-in-the nation cigarette tax by 60 cents a pack over four years, went down to defeat, 59.2% to 40.8% (or 1,609,953 votes to 1,107,716) on November 8th, 2016. At least 75% of the money raised was to have been dedicated to early childhood education programs, said to be currently underfunded, with some also going to early childhood health and smoking prevention programs. It would have closed a tax loophole which presently allows smaller tobacco companies not part of the Master Settlement Agreement to sell more competitively in the state.
The primary organizers of Amendment 3, Raise Your Hands for Kids, received $12.1 million of its nearly $13 million in contributions from Reynolds American tobacco. This was partly responsible for generating opposition from many tobacco control and smoke-free air advocacy groups, among others.
The amendment was also opposed by the Missouri Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association, led by Executive Director Ron Leone. It wanted to protect the tax loophole currently enjoyed by smaller tobacco brands to maintain profits, and spearheaded a competing proposal, Proposition A.
This was for a more modest cigarette tax increase in increments totaling only 23 cents a pack by 2021 with revenue being deposited in the state’s Transportation Infrastructure Fund.
According to Ballotpedia, two tobacco companies benefiting from the current tobacco tax exemptions, Cheyenne International and XCaliber International donated a combined $4.8 million to the PAC supporting Proposition A and opposing Amendment 3.
On November 8th, Proposition A was defeated 55.3% to 44.7% (1,494,886 votes to 1,210,199).
Reviewing them makes me wonder if the defeat of Amendment 3 wasn’t a significant lost opportunity. At the same time, I believe the funding should have been specifically dedicated to reducing smoking prevalence in the state by proven successful advertising campaigns and helping smokers quit. Also the entire proposed cigarette tax increase – preferably a dollar rather than 60 cents – needed to go into effect at once, and not be spread over four years in 15 cent increments.