For the last 12 years, legislators have refused the state attorney general’s request to pass a law to neutralize a pricing advantage that small tobacco manufacturers enjoy. Missouri is the only state that has not passed such a law.
The issue is drawing heightened attention this year because of an arbitration panel’s decision. Under that decision, Missouri will forfeit $69 million of the roughly $130 million that the state had expected to receive this year from the national tobacco settlement.
Attorney General Chris Koster is once again urging that the pricing advantage be addressed. Lobbyists for small tobacco manufacturers are working the Capitol’s hallways to fend off the proposal. They say they’re not to blame for the arbitration award and it would be unfair to make them shoulder the large cigarette makers’ liabilities.
Legislators involved in the fight say they doubt they can overcome the political muscle of Little Tobacco.