Tobacco habits could start burning a hole in your wallet

Missouri has one of the lowest nationwide tax rates for tobacco products.

Voters could change that this November.

"We can be known for other things besides being the cheapest state in the neighborhood for cigarettes," President and CEO of Hannibal Regional Hospital Lynn Olson said.

Proposition B raises taxes on tobacco products. Cigarettes would be taxed about $0.73 per pack, roll-your-own tobacco would be taxed at 25 percent and other tobacco products at 15 percent. Many smokers say the tax would be a burden.

"I smoke, but I go here because they're cheap here. They're the cheapest. For the people who don't have a lot of money, with taxes being raised it would be more of a struggle for them," Zach Smith said.

For Lynn Olson, money from the tax could not be going to a better place. The tax will set up the Health and Education Trust Fund, which will provide smoking prevention and education programs to Missouri schools.

"I know a lot of people get hooked in the teenage years, 14, 15, 16 so prevention is really key at those ages. We support methods that will help educate youngsters about staying healthy. If we can keep them from smoking that would be one of those things that would be good," Olson said.

The new tax would bring in hundreds of millions of dollars to the state for educational programs.

"If you look at just Medicaid alone, which is a program that is funded about half by the state of Missouri, it's in the hundred of millions of dollars that smoking costs us as taxpayers," Olson said.

Several smokers said they are concerned that the state should not interfere with how much tobacco products end up costing them.

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