The price of smoking cigarettes in Missouri could soon see a substantial price increase if a new voter-driven petition effort is successful.

This week, the secretary of state gave approval to a group led by the American Cancer Society to begin circulating a petition that would put a four-cent per cigarette tax increase on ballot.

The initiative would substantially increase the tax rate on all cheap cigarettes products in Missouri. Currently, a pack of 20 buy cigarettes in Missouri comes with 17 cents in tax. This new proposal would raise the amount of taxes paid per pack to 97 cents. For other cigarettes online products, a tax of 34 percent of the manufacturer’s invoice price would be added.

The ballot initiative calls for these new taxes to be used for a new state trust fund to finance anti-tobacco education at all levels of public education, including at public universities.

The same ballot proposal also calls for an increase in the amount that certain tobacco manufacturers must maintain in their escrow accounts to pay legal judgments or settlements.

Before any statutory changes can be brought before Missouri voters in November 2012, signatures must be obtained from 5 percent of registered voters in six of the state’s nine congressional districts by May of next year.

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