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      School Boards Association backs tobacco tax initiative

      UPDATE: June 20, 2012 5:21 P.M.

      The Missouri School Boards Association voted to support a plan that would raise Missouri??s lowest-in-the-nation cigarette tax from 17 cents per pack to 90 cents beginning in January.

      MO School Boards Association Spokesman Brent Ghan said, ??We think it??s kind of a tough argument to make that we ought to remain the lowest tobacco tax in the country when we continue to struggle to find new revenue to fund public education and other things that we need here in the State of Missouri.??

      The State Auditor??s Office estimates the tobacco tax increase would generate up to more than $400 million a year. Half of the money would go to public school districts, 30% to higher education and 20% to efforts intended to prevent people from using tobacco or help them quit.

      Initiative Spokeswoman Misty Snodgrass said, ??It??s not only health organizations. It??s not only educational organizations. We are receiving a significant amount of endorsements from the business community.??

      Some Jefferson City smokers said they are tired of being an easy target by allowing the government to tell them when and where they can smoke and how much they pay in extra taxes.

      Smoker Lynn Ritter said, ??I think it??s outrageous. I wish they would pick on someone else for our taxes.??

      The owner of a Jefferson City smoke shop said higher tobacco taxes will not stop people from lighting up. We Be Smokin?? owner Tommie Norman said, ??When people are ready to stop smoking they do. You can??t take a pill to stop smoking. You have to do that in your mind.??

      Officials with the Secretary of State??s Office should know if supporters submitted enough petition signatures to qualify the measure for the November ballot sometime in August.

      Illinois legislators recently increased their tobacco tax by a dollar.

      That increased the average national tobacco tax from $1.46 to $1.49.

      Original Story:

      The Missouri School Boards Association is backing a potential November ballot initiative asking Missouri voters to raise tobacco taxes to benefit schools.

      The association voted Tuesday to support a plan that would raise Missouri's lowest-in-the-nation cigarette tax from 17 cents per pack to 90 cents beginning in January.

      The state auditor's office estimates the initiative would generate between $283 million and $423 million annually. Fifty percent of the money would go to public school districts, 30 percent to higher education and 20 percent to efforts intended to prevent people from using tobacco or help them quit doing so.

      The Secretary of State's office has not yet determined if supporters submitted enough petition signatures to qualify the measure for the ballot.