WEST ALTON, MO (KTVI) – The state of Missouri still has the lowest cigarette tax in the country, after the majority of voters said 'no' to Proposition B in Tuesday’s election.
If passed, Prop B would have raised the state tax on cigarettes from 17 cents to 90 cents. The narrow loss was met with both disappointment and relief.
Selling cigarettes keeps money rolling in for the BP gas station on U.S. 67 in West Alton, especially because so many Illinois smokers cross state lines for cheaper cigarettes. Prop B might have changed that.
BP convenience store employee Heather McKaig says, “I think we would have lost a good amount, just because half of our sales are in the cheaper brands of cigarettes. So we would have definitely lost those customers.”
Customers like Illinois resident Judy Pratt, who only buys her cigarettes in Missouri. Compared to the Show Me State’s 17-cent cigarette tax, Illinois’ is $1.98.
Pratt says, “I’m glad it didn’t pass.”
Prop B would have also closed a loophole that keeps her favorite generic brands cheaper than all the rest. That’s a change Pratt couldn’t afford. She explains,
“We’d probably quit smoking then. Probably wouldn’t have been a bad idea!”
This one potential quitter is one big reason supporters of Prop B are so disappointed. Missouri American Heart Association Government Relations Director Jace Smith says, “We really feel it’s a sad day here in Missouri.”
Smith explains that Prop B would have raised $283 million annually, which could have benefited education, and helping smokers kick the habit. Plus, he says more quitters would have saved taxpayers money: “We all pay $565 in medical costs each year because of the diseases caused by tobacco, so this is hurting all Missourians quite frankly.”
Why didn’t Prop B pass then? Smith blames the scare tactics of tobacco companies. He explains, “We saw a lot of signs stating there was a 760% tax increase, and then it didn’t say anything else about Proposition B and what it really did. Yes it was a tax on cigarette products, but it wasn’t a tax on everybody.”
Others who voted against Prop B didn’t trust that the money would go into the right hands, and some feared it would benefit “Obamacare.”
For now, tobacco vendors and smokers can breathe a sigh of relief, but Missouri resident Raymond Perry, who voted for Prop B, hopes this isn’t the end. He says, “I think it’ll be back around again, and hopefully next time it will pass.”
Proposition B marks the third failed attempt to pass a tobacco tax in Missouri within the past decade.