JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – An organization leading the fight against Amendment 3 launched their first ad Tuesday criticizing the amendment as a Big Tobacco-funded “scheme.”
The Missouri Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Operators (MPCA) released the ad Tuesday. It features tobacco mascot Joe Camel while a voiceover calls Amendment 3 a “scheme by the tobacco company to crush their competition.”
“The curtain is being pulled back on another Big Tobacco scheme that uses children to increase profits,” said Ron Leone, executive director of the MPCA. “When Missourians learn Amendment 3 is really about helping Big Tobacco and that kids are being used as pawns for profits, they will vote NO on this massive scam.”
Leone said the ad will air statewide on TV, radio and online.
“Our organization is running statewide advertising against Amendment 3 in all major media markets including television, radio and online,” he said. “We will not be able to spend the millions available to Big Tobacco, but we hope to be competitive. We are also working with our members to provide materials at gas stations that Missourians visit frequently. Our goal of the campaign is to fight back against Big Tobacco’s tax scheme and we are confident we will have the resources to get that done.”
Amendment 3 would raise the state’s tobacco tax over a period of several years, eventually raising a projected $300 million for early childhood health and education. But it would also apply a surcharge for small cigarette manufacturers so that they would cost about the same price as large companies, which are part of the Master Settlement Agreement.
The thinking goes that if their products are priced the same, “Big Tobacco” companies will be able to overwhelm the smaller manufacturers that make up about a quarter of the Missouri market.
One large company specifically, RAI Services Co., which is responsible for brands like Camel, Newport and Pall Mall, has contributed more than $6.5 million to support first the initiative petition and now the amendment. That money has been distributed among three committees: Raise Your Hand for Kids, Yes on 3 for Kids and the Early Childhood Education Initiative.
Interestingly, the ad warns of “politicians turning promises into lies,” implying that the money wouldn’t actually go to early learning. However, it’s the campaign against the amendment that touted last month a list of 110 state legislators opposed to the measure.
The campaign to support Amendment 3, Yes on 3 for Kids, has released several ads featuring children touting the benefits of more funding for early childhood education.