Big Tobacco gearing up for cigarette tax fight
The Kansas City Star
And so it begins.
Campaign finance disclosures on file at the Missouri Ethics Commission show that Cheyenne International, of Grover, N.C., has donated $181,000 to a political action committee called Enough Taxes Already.
Cheyenne International is — you guessed it — a “full line tobacco product manufacturer.” Enough Taxes Already is the committee set up to confront the expected initiative petition campaign to raise Missouri’s lowest-in-the-nation cigarette tax.
Expect the Cheyenne International donations to be the first in a gusher of funds aimed at keeping Missourians from raising their tax on cigarettes from a ridiculous 17 cents a pack to 90 cents a pack — still low but more in line with other states.
In California, Big Tobacco spent more than $47 million this year to convince state voters not to add a dollar to the price of a pack of cigarettes. Support among voters dropped as the tobacco industry’s campaign ramped up.
Here’s how U.S. News & World Report summed it up:
California’s Proposition 29, a ballot initiative to add a $1 tax to packs of cigarettes, was defeated by a narrow margin in a statewide vote Tuesday. The vote was so close it has taken more than three days to determine the result. That the vote was so close—the two sides were separated by around 53,000 votes out of 3.8 million ballots casted as of Thursday—speaks to the powerful influence of cash in swaying voters.
I would expect the same onslaught here. Hopefully, the fact the Missouri’s tax is so much lower than anyone else’s will have some impact. Money from an increased tobacco tax would provide valuable funding for schools, colleges and health-related causes.
For now, the campaign will mean money for political operative Jeff Roe and his company, Axiom Strategies. Axiom has received $170,000 from Enough Taxes Already for “voter education” purposes.
We will know in early August if supporters of the higher tax gathered enough valid signatures to get their issue on the ballot. I expect that they did, and after that the battle royale will begin.