Missouri residents, business owners concerned increased tobacco tax will hurt local revenue

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Some groups in Missouri are working to collect signatures to try and get a higher tobacco tax initiative on the November ballot. But boosting this tax would actually cost Kansas City a lot of money.

Missouri has the lowest tobacco tax in the nation. At just 17-cents a pack, many people drive in from Kansas and other neighboring states to buy their tobacco products in Missouri.

Some argue if voters raise the "sin tax," some would stop making this trip to the Show Me State for cigarettes, and that would result in lost revenue. Also when the price of cigarettes goes up, many people buy fewer packs – or quit smoking altogether.

"When the price of tobacco goes up, consumption goes down generally," Director of health Kevin Gipson said. "So anytime we see consumption of a known carcinogen goes down, we think it's a positive public health action."

State officials say that would cost local governments hundreds of thousands of dollars in local sales tax revenue.

"They come to buy five to ten cartons at a time and quite honestly, it would hurt us in Missouri," Tobacco World Owner Don Johnson said. "They think they would make all this extra money. But they have no idea how many millions and millions of dollars come from out of state."

But while local cities would lose, the state would win, reaping in tens of millions of extra dollars from the higher taxes.

And that money would be used to either help children with cancer, fund early childhood education or fix Missouri roads.

There are currently at least nine petitions circulating the state calling for tobacco taxes to be raised anywhere from 5-to-60-cents a pack.

To get on the ballot, supporters need at least 100,000 signatures, and the last three times they’ve tried to raise the tobacco tax, Missouri residents voted them all down.