Missouri Amendment 3 garners support and criticism over tobacco tax

Posted: 9:37 PM, Nov 01, 2016
Updated: 2016-11-02 16:36:27-04

Millions of dollars are being spent on ads for and against Amendment 3 in Missouri. 41 Action News wanted to find out why.

Jeffrey Mittman, Executive Director of the ACLU of Missouri said, "Amendment 3 on its face appears to be a way of reducing smoking and improving early childhood education."

If passed, it would impose a 60-cent tax on cigarettes in the state. An estimated $300 million would be generated and from the tax and that money would go toward early childhood education. Here's the breakout:

The ACLU of Missouri argues there's also something you don't see at first glance. "Unfortunately, hidden in the proposed amendment is the destruction of a long standing tradition in the state of Missouri and that is that we keep religion and the public separate," Mittman said.

Amendment 3 prohibits any of the tax revenue from going toward, "existing or proposed activities, programs, or initiatives that involve abortion services" or, "human cloning or research, clinical trials, or therapies or cures using human embryonic stem cells."

Read full amendment text.

Money can be granted to religious institutions though. Mittman added, "Although it is just a small part of this amendment, because it is hidden in it, we're disappointed."

Several organizations though support Amendment 3 because it would help places like Operation Breakthrough.

RELATED: An explanation on Missouri's competing cigarette tax proposals.

CEO Mary Esselman said, "We could fill Operation Breakthrough two or three times over and still not reach all of the need."

According to Esselman, just 4 percent of eligible kids are funded through Head Start right now and the money this measure would provide could help them serve more children.

An unlikely supporter is R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, which has spent over $12 million on ads backing the measure. It's the first time the company has ever supported a tax increase on tobacco. We asked them why. In a statement, the company said:

"RAI and its operating companies have traditionally opposed additional increases in tobacco excise taxes because they burden adult tobacco consumers and are harmful to our business. These regressive taxes have negative, unintended consequences, such as escalating the amount of illicit tobacco trade and other illegal activity. However, after reviewing the measures on the ballot this year in Missouri, and prior such proposals made in the state, and considering all the factors involved, we did decide for the very first time to support a cigarette tax increase. We believe Amendment 3 is both fair to our consumers and clearly in the best interests of the people of Missouri.

Amendment 3 also provides long overdue funding for early childhood education. Missouri ranks near the bottom in the country in providing for state-funded Pre-K. Amendment 3 will close that gap, and as a result thousands of Missouri children will finally have the opportunity to attend Pre-K, which studies have consistently shown helps lead to better academic, and professional, outcomes. Early childhood education, by leading to better student outcomes, helps strengthen Missouri's economy by creating a more prepared and ready workforce. In addition to our interest in that component of the Amendment, we are also a company that is devoted to accelerating the decline in youth tobacco use, and we are pleased that a portion of the funds gained through Amendment 3 will be put toward youth tobacco prevention. Amendment 3 will also fund efforts to reduce smoking rates among pregnant women in the state.

What the company doesn't mention is that in addition to the 60-cent tax, its smaller competitors would have to pay an additional 67-cent tax. Those smaller tobacco companies are also spending millions advocating another measure, Proposition A.

Read full proposition text.

It's a smaller tobacco tax hike that would generate about $100 million that would go toward transportation projects.


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