COLUMBIA, Mo. - Voting "yes" for Amendment 3 on Missouri's 2016 ballot will increase the cigarette tax from $0.17 to $0.77 by 2020. The tax would increase every year by 15 cents starting on Jan. 1, 2017, until it reaches the 60-cent increase in 2020.
Voting "no" for this constitutional amendment will keep the same amount of tax a pack of cigarettes has now.
If this amendment passes, the extra revenue from the tax increase goes straight towards a new trust fund that would be created. This fund is called Early Childhood Health and Education Trust Fund. This fund is strictly for programs that improve the quality of health and education to children younger than 5 years old.
A "yes" vote will generate an estimated $300 million additional government revenue, according to the Missouri Secretary of State. At least 75 percent of the revenue goes into the Early Childhood Health and Education Trust Fund, as stated in the amendment.
According to the Missouri National Education Association, the money in the trust fund will not go to public education, only private entities, and in the form of grants.
However, the revenue created from the increased cigarette tax will be managed by mainly by political appointees that the people of Missouri did not vote for. Only two of the 13 members of the fund's trustees are elected officials.
Vote Yes on 3 for Kids is the leading campaign backing Amendment 3. RAI (Reynolds American Inc.) Company Services, owner of Newport, Camel and Pall Mall, has donated about $12 million dollars to pro Amendment 3 campaigns such as Vote Yes on 3 for Kids.
A "yes" vote will make only "Big Tobacco" products increase price by only 60 cents, where "Little Tobacco" products will be increased by $1.27.
Opponents of this amendment include the American Association of University Women Missouri, Missouri National Education Association, American Lung Association in Missouri, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, and Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster and his opponent in the governor race, Eric Greitens.
Karen Francis, co-chair of policy of AAUW Missouri, said she was for the amendment until she read that the Early Childhood Health and Education Trust Fund is not limited to Title IX of the Missouri constitution, meaning the public funds could be used for private or religious programs.
The amendment also says the money from the fund cannot be used for abortions, or anything on behalf of abortions, stem-cell research, human-cloning research or tobacco related research. Jack Cardetti, spokesman for Vote Yes on 3 for Kids, said this language was put in the amendment because in 2012, opponents of the then-tobacco tax said the money would go to that kind of research and abortions.