Secretary of State Jason Kander’s Office announced Monday that three initiative petitions regarding cigarettes, roll-your-own tobacco and the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement have been cleared for circulation. The petitions would create a one and a half cent tax per cigarette and repeal or change the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement, which requires tobacco companies to compensate states for increased public health costs created by cigarettes.
The additional tax on cigarettes would yield approximately $150 million annually and the repeal of the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement would decrease the compensation the state receives by approximately $135 million annually, netting the state about $15 million, according to an analysis by the State Auditor’s office.
The petition was submitted by Khristine Heisinger who could not be reached for comment. At this time, there is no indication as to what groups, if any, are behind this petition.
Executive Director of Tobacco Free Missouri Traci Kennedy questions the motives of the groups behind the petitions because the requested tax increase is not high enough to make any real impact on the consumption of tobacco.
“There have been petitions that have been filed with the Secretary of State this year and previous years, and we don’t feel that these are filed with the intent of improving public health." Kennedy said. "I think they have more to do with the business interests of particular companies that have an interest in the product.”
The backers of the petitions have until May 4 to collect the required number of signatures to get the petitions onto the November ballot.