Opponents of the tobacco tax increase on the Nov. 6 ballot got a big boost this week when Cheyenne International, maker of Decade cigarettes, gave $200,000 to fight the measure.
The donation from the North Carolina firm more than doubled the money available to the Missouri Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association PAC, the group that will spearhead the fight against the tax hike. On its latest report, covering the period through July 26, the PAC reported it had $116,000 in the bank.
Behind the donation, however, is some good news for supporters of the proposal: The largest tobacco manufacturers have told Ron Leone, executive director of the association, that they will not participate in the campaign, he said.
“Altria and R.J. Reynolds, what most people would define as Big Tobacco, are sitting out the fight,” Leone said.
The donation — and the big companies’ decisions to sit it out — came in response to donation solicitations from the PAC, he said.
Earlier this week, Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan announced that the proposal, which would add 73 cents to the cost of a pack of cigarettes, had enough signatures to be placed on the ballot as Proposition B. Along with the extra tax on cigarettes, the proposal would impose a 25 percent tax on loose tobacco for rolling cigarettes and a 15 percent tax on cigars and other tobacco products.
Missouri now imposes a tax of 17 cents per pack on cigarettes, the lowest in the nation.
The measure is expected to raise $283 million to $423 million annually. Public schools would get half the money, state colleges and universities would get 30 percent, and the rest would go toward smoking cessation programs.
By Rudi Keller/ Columbia Daily Tribune