Election 2012: Missouri Votes Down Prop B

Tobacco tax failure should provide relief to struggling retailers

Melissa Vonder Haar, Freelance Writer

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Missouri has rejected Proposition B, representing the third time in 11 years that voters turned down measures to raise tobacco taxes. Had Prop B passed, Missouri would have gone from having the lowest tax rate in the country--17 cents per pack--to 90 cents per pack.

(See Related Content below for previous CSP Daily News coverage.)

While a tax of 90 cents is still well below the national average of $1.49 per pack, such an extreme tax increase would have been painful to tobacco retailers already struggling with declining cigarette sales. This was one of the main reasons the Missouri Petroleum Marketers & Convenience Store Association (MPCA) and the National Association of Tobacco Outlets (NATO) led the charge against Prop B.

"The defeat of Prop B is a very positive outcome for Missouri retailers that sell tobacco products," Thomas Briant, NATO's executive director, told CSP Daily News. "With the economy still not in a full recovery mode, Missouri retailers will not have to contend with significantly higher cigarette and tobacco product taxes which could lead to a reduction in sales."

Although Missouri voters have rejected proposed tobacco tax increases in 2002, 2006 and 2012, the measures all failed by very narrow margins: 51% in 2002, 52% in 2006 and a mere 50.8% in 2012.

Ron Leone--who ran MPCA's campaign against Prop B--told The St. Louis Post-Dispatch that retailers would be open to discussing a "reasonable compromise" on taxes with the American Cancer Society and other Prop B proponents. "This issue isn't going to go away," Leone said, noting that the MPCA had endorsed a 33-cents-per-pack tax in the past.

"Maybe after a third time they will come to the table," he said.