Tobacco use kills, a well-known medical fact, and Missouri’s leaders, including Gov. Mike Parson, have talked about solutions in light of two vaping deaths, but this is an election year, when talk is cheaper than usual.

As we have stated previously, the 1998 master settlement in the case against tobacco manufacturers enriched Missouri, with $262.1 million coming to this state in the year just ended. At the time of the settlement, then state Sen. Ed Quick called wisely for using a substantial amount from the settlement for health care, and for tobacco cessation efforts. The legislature ignored him and spend the money on their pet projects, a practice that continues to this day.

In this fiscal year, Missouri budgeted about $172,000 to help fight deadly tobacco use, a shot that falls short of the spittoon. The amount “sounds” good, tripling last year’s spending, but is too little to accomplish much that needs doing. Think of it as election-year pandering.

For more than 20 years, Missouri’s leaders have shrugged at the obligation to protect the health of residents, voted to cut Medicaid, watched rural hospitals close, let tobacco taxes drop to the lowest level in the nation and continue to do next to nothing to curb tobacco use.

Missouri voters deserve leaders who will pledge to improve health care, not more mumbled lip service. Voters should speak clearly at the polls come Nov. 3.

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