(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) A bus tour gathering support for a proposed tobacco tax increase in Missouri made a stop in St. Joseph Thursday.
The group wants a "yes" vote on Nov. 6 on what they call a health issue and a revenue issue.
"Missouri has the lowest tobacco tax in the country at 17-cents per pack," said Mindy Snodgrass, Show-Me a Brighter Future. "This directly relates to our poor health outlook and high smoking rates, especially among children."
Show-Me a Brighter Future wants Missourians to approve Proposition B, which would raise the tobacco tax to 90-cents per pack of cigarettes.
Those at Thursday's rally say the current rate is too low.
"We're paying a tobacco tax right now at $95 million. That's what we're receiving from it and we're paying out $532 million in Medicaid costs. So, every Missourian is paying an indirect tax right now," added Snodgrass.
Sara Summers, who has been active in the push for a smoking ban in St. Joseph, said the proposed increase would be a start, but it would still leave Missouri below the national average.
"Vote 'yes' to education, reduced class size, increased teacher salaries, and tobacco prevention, right here in Missouri," she said. "If we were to raise our current tobacco tax eight-fold we would still be well below the national average."
Similar measures failed in Missouri in 2002 and 2006.
The difference this time around is how the tax money would be used. If passed, the 2012 proposition promises millions of dollars to state education funding, as well as programs aimed at getting people to quit smoking.
"At every one of these stops, we've had school board members, we've had a physician; so it's kind of the only time you've seen these kind of communities join together on a health issue and a funding issue," said Snodgrass.
And with such diverse support, those at the rally hope it's enough to fuel their cause come election time in November.
But, not everyone at the bus stop tour for Prop B supported the measure. During the event, a truck carrying a trailer with a large sign circled the venue more than ten times.
The truck carried a sign that says "Enough is Enough. Vote NO on Prop B."
Opponents of the tax increase say it is unnecessary.
Among them, the Missouri Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association.
The group cites analysis from a University of Missouri economist stating that Prop B negatively impacts all taxpayers and not just smokers.
"While proponents of Prop B travel the state on their bus tour, will they be stopping by schools to tell teachers and students to expect education funding to fall? Will they go to homes and inform families that essential services could see a decrease in revenue," said Ron Leone, Executive Director of the Missouri Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association. "This is not just a tax on smokers. Proposition B is a tax everybody pays."
Leone says the study found Proposition B will decrease state, county, and municipal revenues by at least $67 million.
For more the opposition to Proposition B, click here. To learn more about the Show-Me a Brighter Future tour, click here.