Missouri Initiative Could Quintuple Cigarette Tax

Advocates seek to raise the lowest cigarette tax in the country

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A coalition in Missouri is seeking to raise the state's cigarette excise tax from its famously low 17 cents per pack to 97 cents.

The American Cancer Society and a coalition of health, education and business group filed for a ballot initiative, and will have to collect more than 90,000 petition signatures by May 2012 to get the measure on the ballot, likely for the November 2012 general election, according to the Kansas City Star.

The average tax for all states is $1.46 per pack, and The Cancer Society estimates the increase would raise about $308 million for education and tobacco use prevention and cessation programs.

According to the paper, the Missouri Petroleum Marketers & Convenience Store Association fought a proposed tax increase in 2006. Ronald Leone, the association's executive director, said the association is confident voters will say no to the tax, and that low taxes foster job growth and lure cross-border cigarette purchases.