Tri-State residents fuming over potential cigarette tax

A potential price hike for tobacco products in Missouri has ignited concerns among Tri-States smokers.

Some interest groups are seeking to raise Missouri's lowest-in-the-nation cigarette tax. They've petitioned to put the issue before voters. They submit signatures to the secretary of state's office by May 6.

The tobacco tax proposal would increase Missouri's 17-cent cigarette tax by 73 cents per pack adding up to a dollar in tax. The money would go toward smoking prevention programs. The American Cancer Society says a higher tax would help curtail teen smoking and get adults to quit.

"We have a lot of business from Illinois because of the prices over there. If our prices go up, it'll just push them to go somewhere else. They're still going to buy their cigarettes," Shandi Adkinsson, with Smoke House Discount Tobacco in Hannibal said.

One of Hannibal's biggest critics on smoking in public agrees.

"I don't think it's going to be viewed favorably. I think like any taxation, citizens will take objection to it," Dr. Richard Draper, with Hannibal Regional Hospital said.

But Draper does acknowledge the potential gains from a tax increase.

"It's a good way to raise money. It really sends the message that, if we're going to pursue these types of habits, we're going to have to pay for them," Draper said.

Staff at the Smoke House say this tax would only hurt local businesses.

"The ones that really want to smoke, yes, they'll figure out a way to. But the ones that are limited, budgeted monthly, it's definitely going to hurt them," Feleicia Martin, the manager of Smoke House said.

"I'm on a fixed income, and I think any tax rate is terrible. They're already getting enough," Lannie Smith said. Smith is an Illinois resident who buys his tobacco products in Missouri.

Sales in the Roll Your Own cigarettes have increased quite a bit at the Smoke House, where staff say you can roll your own pack for less than 70 cents. They added more people are switching over to the electronic cigarettes as well.

"For most smokers, it's a necessity, like gas. You have to have it. You're going to pay a dollar more for gas to go back and forth to work and to do what you need to do. You're going to pay an extra dollar for cigarettes," Adkinsson said. "We already pay a tax for our cigarettes. I think it's a freedom that's being taken away from us, and we're being harshly punished and put out, literally put out,"

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