On Tuesday, November 6, Missourians will have the opportunity to vote to improve health by voting “yes” on Proposition B. Dr. Michael Bukstein, President – Hannibal Clinic, Todd Ahrens, President – Hannibal Regional Healthcare System, and Lynn Olson, President – Hannibal Regional Hospital, all agree that this is an important step in lowering the incidence of smoking in Missouri. With enough yes votes, Missouri’s tobacco tax – currently the lowest in the nation – will be raised by $.73 per pack of cigarettes and will increase taxes on other tobacco products.
“As physicians and health care providers, we see the devastating effects of tobacco use on health every day,” Dr. Bukstein commented.
Mr. Ahrens encouraged voters to consider that:
- Missourians are dying earlier because of preventable illnesses, and we have the 39th lowest life expectancy in the country;
- Missouri has some of the highest smoking, lung cancer and heart disease rates in the country;
- nearly 10,000 Missourians die each year from smoking related illnesses and disease;
- and most importantly Missouri has one of the highest youth smoking rates and northeast Missouri is one of the highest areas in the state.
Dr. Bukstein who has been active in the American Cancer Society at the national and state level reminds voters that:
- tobacco use accounts for 30% of all cancer deaths and 87% of lung cancer deaths;
- tobacco use is associated with more than 30 other cancers;
- Missouri has the 11th highest smoking rate in the country; 21% of adults smoke; and most upsetting is:
- kids in Missouri are smoking in increasing numbers with 19.5% of high school students who smoke and 8,600 Missouri kids who start smoking each year.
Missouri currently does not fund smoking education, cessation or prevention programs, making it very hard for those who want to quit to find resources to improve their health.
Mr. Olson, who is fairly new to his role at Hannibal Regional Hospital but has recent experience in other states where increased taxation on tobacco has resulted in a reduced incidence of smoking, remarked that tobacco use costs us all. “Annually, Missouri spends $2.13 billion on healthcare costs directly related to smoking and $532 million in related Medicaid program costs. In addition, smoking costs Missouri businesses $2.51 billion in lost productivity.”
All three leaders recognized that increasing the price of tobacco products is a proven way to decrease smoking rates in youth. In addition they indicated that this tax will generate $283 million annually in new revenue for Missouri schools and will fund smoking prevention programs.
According to Dr. Bukstein, “Even if the money is diverted from the intended worthwhile causes as the detractors from PROP B indicate it might, the beneficial effects of increased taxes on decreasing youth smoking and addiction of future generations is worthwhile. We encourage your vote FOR PROPOSITION B in the general election on Tuesday November 6.”