Cigarettes paid for with tax dollars

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by Chris Nagus

KMOV.com

Posted on November 21, 2011 at 9:34 PM

Updated Tuesday, Nov 22 at 10:29 AM

(KMOV) -- Tax dollars are paying for cigarettes in Missouri. A Schnucks checker contacted News 4 after selling a pack of cigarettes to a customer who paid with EBT cash. The purchase was only six dollars and three cents, but James Mason says, "that's upsetting to me. It's taxpayer money and we are buying cigarettes for people on EBT."

Cigarette and alcohol transactions are blocked when a customer tries to pay with food stamps, but the transactions are not blocked when the customer pays with EBT cash. EBT cash comes from the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (T.A.N.F) program. In Missouri TANF payments totaled $119,458,224 this fiscal year. In Illinois TANF payments totaled $148,653,866 during the same time period. The money is loaded on the same cards that are used to for food stamps.
 
Missouri lawmakers are mixed on whether the transactions should be allowed. News 4 recently interviewed State Senator Jim Lembke and State Representative Jeanette Mott Oxford about out of state welfare payments, and also asked about this issue.
 
Lembke says, "If somebody goes into a Schnucks store with EBT card and buys a pack of cigarettes it should be refused. The technology to do that should be out there."
 
Oxford says, "I would not take away personal freedoms of my neighbors to make bad decisions." Oxford added, "again I think you are putting the scrutiny on one group of people only." Oxford said she would prefer people not smoke, but doesn't think it's fair to tell the poor what they can and can't buy.
 
A Schnucks spokesperson told News 4 they are following the law by allowing these purchases to take place, and the same transactions can occur at any retailer that accepts EBT cash.
 
We want to know what you think, should these transactions be allowed. You can leave your comments on Chris Nagus' KMOV facebook page.

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