Funds from tobacco tax hike would waft to MU's Medical School

Sep 20, 2012

Smokers won't be the only ones affected if Missouri voters decide to raise the tobacco tax in November. If Proposition B passes, part of the extra tax proceeds will benefit the MU Medical School.

The medical school is collaborating with CoxHealth and Mercy health systems in Springfield to construct the city’s first clinical campus. CoxHealth Chief Medical Officer Dr. Dan Sontheimer says the tobacco tax initiative would mean a speedier process for this new clinical campus to become a reality.

“If we didn’t have that tobacco tax you know obviously we would have to go through the legislature and lobby, do a lot of work in those regards and how long would that take for us to actually get funding?" says Sontheimer. "Would we have to go through two legislative sessions, three? It’s hard to know, but this would certainly expedite it.”

Sontheimer also says this Springfield clinic would allow an increase of MU medical school students, add 300 physicians, provide 3,500 new jobs and $390 million annually to the state. MU Associate Dean for Rural Health Weldon Webb says this comes at a perfect time.

“If you look at the state and look at especially at rural populations you have an aging population," Webb says. "And then if you look at any national study there’s predicted a great shortage of physicians in the state.”

If the tobacco tax passes, Chancellor Brady Deaton expects $30 million to go toward constructing the clinical campus and another 10 million toward operational costs.