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Missouri Cures and its coalition partners have deep concerns that the proposed tobacco tax initiative known as Amendment 3 will adversely affect patient care, medical research and innovation in our state.

Our coalition includes BioSTL, Missouri Biotechnology Association, Stowers Institute for Medical Research and Washington University and thousands of disease groups and patients.

Amendment 3 would raise taxes on tobacco products, and the money would be used to fund early childhood education programs. If passed, the financial gains for these programs will come at a grim price. Medical research into therapies and cures will lose its current explicit protections. This flawed ballot initiative, funded by the North Carolina-based owner of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., is not the appropriate vehicle to help our kids. It’s a guise to undermine safeguards for cutting-edge medical research.

When Missouri voters passed the Missouri Stem Cell Amendment in 2006, it gave strong constitutional protections to stem cell research, therapies and cures, including provisions preventing it from being stigmatized or penalized. Those of us who worked on the 2006 campaign fought hard to ensure that cures and therapies could move forward in our state.

The current climate is safe for doctors and scientists who wish to participate in medical research. Anti-research legislation in the Legislature cannot threaten this freedom and cannot create a chilling effect in our research institutions, as it does in other states without the same constitutional protections in place. If passed, Amendment 3 would insert a new provision into Missouri’s Constitution that stigmatizes these activities.

At the very least, we anticipate passage of Amendment 3 would lead to new and more dangerous legislative battles, as well as expensive litigation over what is constitutionally permissible, all with unpredictable outcomes that threaten the otherwise welcoming environment for medical research and scientific inquiry in Missouri.

In addition to undermining stem cell research protections, Amendment 3 also prohibits funding of research on the harmful effects of tobacco and smoking, including the impact of such products on children. Why would a ballot measure which seeks funding for early childhood programs ban research on how tobacco affects children? The answer is chilling: It’s because Big Tobacco, which has the most to gain from tobacco use, is paying for the campaign. RJR has spent $5.2 million and counting to fund the Amendment 3 campaign.

Another inconvenient truth is that Amendment 3 contains a public health gag order. Organizations or individuals that receive funding from this initiative are forbidden from advocating for further controls on tobacco products. This order includes those engaged in policy work in the public health area, such as city, county, and state health department officials. Again, this language was inserted at the insistence of the corporate tobacco interests.

Amendment 3 is opposed by a large and diverse set of organizations, and has brought together organizations that normally find themselves on opposite sides of issues.

Other opponents include: American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Heart Association, American Lung Association in Missouri, AFT Local 420, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Concerned Women for America of Missouri, Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City, Missouri Alliance for Freedom, Missouri Family Network, Missouri Association of Rural Education, Missouri National Education Association, Missouri Farmers coalition, Missouri Retired Teachers Association, Tobacco-Free Missouri, NARAL Prochoice Missouri, United for Missouri, and We Deserve Better. In addition, 112 state legislators oppose the initiative, along with both gubernatorial candidates.

Missourians deserve to know the facts about Amendment 3. If this passes in November, stem cell research protections will once again be called into question; research into the harmful effects of smoking will be banned; and our public health officers will be prohibited from advocating for further controls on tobacco. Voters should ask themselves how any of these outcomes supports and nurtures our most vulnerable population: our children.

We urge Missourians to get the facts and to join us in rejecting the dangerously flawed Amendment 3.