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Prop B Bus Tour Rolls in - TV Ads Roll Out

photo prop B supporters on bus tour. Courtesy of: showmeabrighterfuture.com
photo prop B supporters on bus tour. Courtesy of: showmeabrighterfuture.com
October 15, 2012

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. - On Election Day, Missourians will be asked to vote on a higher tobacco tax that would fund schools and pay for programs to help people quit smoking. Supporters on Friday wrapped up a two-week bus tour that covered more than 20 cities to promote Proposition B (Prop B). This week they roll out the TV ads.

Misty Snodgrass, legislative director for the American Cancer Society-Missouri, who helped lead the bus campaign, says talking to people face-to-face helps them understand the pocketbook issues. She says many people had seen yard signs about a tax increase, but didn't realize that the tax hike was actually on tobacco. Many voters had no idea how much money smokers who get sick cost taxpayers every year, she adds.

"Most Missourians weren't aware that we are spending $532 million on Medicaid costs directly related to tobacco."

At 17 cents a pack, Missouri's tobacco tax is the lowest in the nation. Proposition B would hike it to 90 cents a pack to raise an estimated $283 million a year for schools.

In many cities, Snodgrass says, when they got off the bus, people spontaneously joined their group.

"A woman was walking her dog in the park in St. Joe and had just lost her sister because she was a smoker. She's like, 'I support what you're doing.' We've had a lot of interesting responses."

Snodgrass says that woman voluntarily addressed the crowd, in hopes of convincing them to vote yes on the tobacco tax.

Snodgrass says riding on the bus gave her a lot of time to reflect on why she supports Prop B. Part of it, she says, is because of her own grandfather's painful death after a lifetime of smoking.

"He had stage-four lung cancer that had spread throughout his body. So not only is it a job for me, it's a personal passion."

Some convenience-store owners say they are afraid a higher tobacco tax will cut into their business and cause a loss of sales tax revenue for the state. But tax proponents say the estimated $1.3 billion in long-term health care costs that will be saved by helping people to quit smoking will more than offset any losses.

Supporters roll out a new TV ad this week that emphasizes how the tobacco taxes are expected to benefit education. The ad may be seen on YouTube.

Mary Anne Meyers, Public News Service - MO