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(AP) - Health advocates are making another run at raising Missouri's lowest-in-the-nation tax on cigarettes, proposing an 80-cent-per-pack increase that could appear on the 2012 ballot.
The American Cancer Society says is it is leading a coalition that will attempt to qualify the measure for the ballot.
A proposed initiative was submitted Tuesday to the Missouri secretary of state's office.
Missouri's cigarette tax of 17 cents per pack has remained unchanged while most other states increased their tobacco taxes over the past decade.
The national average for all states is now $1.46 per pack. Ballot measures that would have raised Missouri's tax were narrowly defeated in both 2002 and 2006. The Cancer Society estimates that the latest proposal, which also would raise taxes on other tobacco products besides cigarettes, would generate about $308 million annually for the state.
The proposal would allot half of that money to elementary and secondary education, 30 percent to colleges and universities and 20 percent to programs intended to prevent people from using tobacco or help them quit doing so.
"Each year thousands of Missourians are diagnosed with tobacco-related cancer and some will lose their lives to this devastating disease," said Misty Snodgrass, of American Cancer Society. "This ballot measure will mean increased longevity, improved quality of life, and fewer Missourians who will needlessly suffer and die from cancer."
The Cancer Society's news release included supportive comments from several education, health and business leaders. Missouri Education Commissioner Chris Nicastro told the Jefferson City News-Tribune that she had not seen the proposal.
"But more money for education isn't a bad thing," she said. The ballot measure still faces several hurdles before it can appear before voters. State officials first must write a summary and prepare a financial estimate that would appear on the initiative petition pages and on the ballot.
Many Missouri ballot initiatives face legal challenges at that point in the process. Once the secretary of state approves the initiative for circulation, supporters would have to gather a minimum of 91,818 petition signatures from registered voters.
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