Democrats Are Fighting Each Other Over Tobacco Tax Hike

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Steve Birr Vice Reporter
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A ballot initiative to hike the tobacco tax in Missouri is dividing Democrats and drawing support from big tobacco companies.

The tax is setting up an odd battle, pitting big tobacco companies that favor the tax against health care groups and liberal advocacy groups like Planned Parenthood. Health care groups argue the tax is too small to have a measurable impact on the state’s smoking rate, however supporters point to the roughly $300 million in annual revenue that would go towards the state’s early childhood education programs, reports the Riverfront Times.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Planned Parenthood stand in opposition to Amendment 3, largely due to concerns the ballot initiative allows for tobacco tax revenue to be given to religious institutions. The Missouri chapter of the NAACP however supports the initiative.

“In one hidden line, the makers of Amendment 3 are undermining our American ideal of protecting religion and democracy,” Jeffrey Mittman, executive director of ACLU-Missouri, told Riverfront Times. “Amendment 3 is a dangerous Trojan Horse that violates the constitutional rights of all Missourians.”

Amendment 3 raises the state’s tax on cigarettes, currently the lowest in the nation, by 60 cents. It also adds an additional 67 cent tax on smaller tobacco companies to raise their prices to equal their brand name competitors. Opponents of the ballot include convenience stores throughout the state that argue the additional tax is a way for big tobacco companies to crush their competition, reports Missouri Net.

Voters in California and North Dakota will also decide on hikes to the tobacco tax on election day, however the battles in these states are far less complex. Proposition 56 in California will hike the state’s tobacco tax from 87 cents to $2.87. The ballot would also allow the state government to begin taxing e-cigarette sales for the first time. (RELATED: Vaping Vendors Fear E-Cigarette Tax Will Crush Their Businesses)

In North Dakota, voters will decide on Measure 4, which would increase the current tobacco tax from 44 cents to $2.20 and add a new tax on electronic cigarettes, while other tobacco products would experience a roughly 50 percent tax increase on sales in the states.

Proponents of tax hikes argue it’s necessary to dissuade people from smoking cigarettes, but the smoking rate in California is 12 percent, the second lowest rate in the country. Additionally, the 400 percent tobacco tax increase proposed in North Dakota would be the state’s largest single tax increase in history.

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