The report called "How Do You Measure Up?" reviewed areas in which states can pass policies that help fight cancer. The categories include cigarette taxes, smoke-free laws and tobacco cessation programs. They say Mississippi falls short on the cigarette tax rate and passing a statewide smoke-free law. Kimberly Hughes with the American Cancer Society in Jackson says the tax is 68 cent per pack. The national average is about $1.60.
"It would be a great time for Mississippi to raise the tax again, not only for the much needed revenue in our state, but it is one of the best ways to prevent young people from starting to smoke and to get people to quit smoking," said Hughes.
State Senator Terry Burton, a member of Public Health Committee says, communities are enacting their own smoking-bans effectively and a statewide law isn't needed. Burton adds the legislature allocated 20 million dollars to the Mississippi Department of Health for tobacco prevention and cessation programs. The report found the state is making progress in that area, but criticized lawmakers for not having a separate program for Medicaid recipients.
"Someone said that the survey said that we don't fund any smoking cessation programs in Medicaid. Well, Medicaid recipients can take part in these programs too," said Burton.
Refusal to expand Medicaid also garnered the state a low rating. Hughes believes it would save money and lives.
"If we caught the cancer a lot earlier, then the life expectancy would be great, but also the treatment cost would be less," said Hughes.
Senator Terry Burton says Mississippi is spending nearly one billion dollars to fund Medicaid. Kimberly Hughes says more than 16,000 Mississippians will be diagnosed with cancer this year.