More than 20 public health organizations in Mississippi are asking lawmakers to raise the tax on tobacco products. MPB's Mark Rigsby reports.
The goal is to save lives, prevent kids from smoking, and get adults to quit. Experts say raising the tax by $1.50 on a pack of cigarettes, and raising taxes on other tobacco products, would also generate an estimated $200 million a year for the state, as well as reduce medicaid costs $1 billion over time. Dr. Bill Grantham is President of the Mississippi State Medical Association. He talks about the impact of a tobacco tax increase.
"A $1.50 tax increase in Mississippi would prevent 22,800 kids from smoking and result in 26,500 adults quitting, and save 14,000 residents from premature smoking-caused deaths."
Kimberly Hughes is Government Relations Director for the American Cancer Society in Mississippi.
"The national average is $1.71. Mississippi's is currently 68 cents. The importance of the significant increase is to make that public health impact. That sticker shock. I want to quit smoking. I don't want to start. It costs too much."
State lawmakers have mixed reactions to the idea. Representative Mac Huddleston is a Republican from Pontotoc.
"I don't know about taxing it. You know, last time we raised the tax on cigarettes, that it would cut back on consumption. I'm sure it has. But a lot of people are paying about twice what they used to pay and still, I think, using some money that should be discretionary to buy cigarettes."
According to a poll conducted by the Social Science Research Center at Mississippi State University, 71% of those surveyed say they support an increase in the tobacco tax.