Missouri has by far the nation’s lowest cigarette tax, 17 cents a pack.



A measure on next Tuesday’s ballot, Proposition B, would raise that to 90 cents, still well below the national average. This plan makes sense. At 26 percent, Missouri has the second-highest smoking rate in the country. A higher tax might marginally reduce the number of teenagers taking up the habit, and the money would go mostly for schools, with some directed to smoking-cessation and smoking-prevention efforts.

Missouri has by far the nation’s lowest cigarette tax, 17 cents a pack.

A measure on next Tuesday’s ballot, Proposition B, would raise that to 90 cents, still well below the national average. This plan makes sense. At 26 percent, Missouri has the second-highest smoking rate in the country. A higher tax might marginally reduce the number of teenagers taking up the habit, and the money would go mostly for schools, with some directed to smoking-cessation and smoking-prevention efforts.

That is a winner all around. Smoking costs the taxpayers of this state millions every year in Medicaid and other costs.

It is a sad commentary that this issue had to make its way to the ballot by initiative petition because our leaders in Jefferson City refuse to take a stand or do something that might upset a special-interest group – in other words, lead – even on such a straightforward issue.

Other issues and races on the statewide ballot on Tuesday:

• Amendment 3 is the latest attempt by out-of-state interests to politicize our courts. Proponents aren’t actively campaigning at this point because they didn’t get the ballot wording they wanted from the secretary of state’s office, but the issue remains on the ballot and therefore the potential for grievous mischief remains as well. This deserves a sound no.

“The Missouri Plan” for selecting judges has been in effect for decades, and other states have borrowed the model. It’s as nonpartisan as reasonably possible. Even Gov. Jay Nixon and his Republican challenger, Dave Spence – one of whom would have more power if this passed – both oppose it.

• The Missouri secretary of state race is as good an example as you’ll find of what’s wrong with Missouri politics, namely the unlimited campaign contributions that distort the political discussion and action in Jefferson City. St. Louis businessman Rex Sinquefield has a broad agenda, but specifically he wants to get to the ballot with a plan to dump the state’s income tax and replace it with a widespread, regressive sales tax that would hammer lower- and middle-income Missourians. To do that, he wants a friendly secretary of state. To that end, he’s provided one-quarter of the campaign money for candidate Shane Schoeller, a Republican. Our concern is that Schoeller, like attorney general candidate Ed Martin, would heavily politicize an office that needs to be kept as far from a political agenda as possible. The larger point is that something has to be done about money and politics in this state.

• State Treasurer Clint Zweifel has served one term and done exactly what the state and its taxpayers have needed in tough economic times: Keep your eye on the ball. Protect the state assets first and foremost, with reasonable growth. He’s also promoted some initiatives such as a state program to help families set aside money for college and program to help farmers and other businesses get needed loans. Nothing exciting – just consistent.