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Advocates say increased taxes on cigarettes will save lives

Advocates say increased taxes on cigarettes will save lives and money in Mississippi
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Invest in a Healthier Future Press Conference at the State Capitol
MPB News

A coalition of cigarette tax advocates is asking Mississippi legislators to Invest in a Healthier Future. MPB's Ashley Norwood reports.

Khalil Jackson is listing family members he's seen become chronically ill or pass away due to cigarette usage. The use of Tobacco products remain the nation's number one cause of preventable death, according to the American Cancer Society. A senior student at St. Andrews, he says he hopes the use of cigarettes in his family stops with him.

"Up to my great-great-grandfather, great grandfather, grandfather...Every single one of them has had a turn for the worse in terms of their health in one way or another," said Jackson.

Katherine Bryant is with the American Heart Association, one of the 30 plus organizations part of the "Invest in a Healthier Future" Coalition. Bryant says increasing tobacco taxes and investing in tobacco prevention will not only save lives but save the state money.

"The state spends millions of millions dollars every year on the affects of smoking related illnesses, specifically amongst our Medicaid population. We also know that a dollar and fifty increase will bring up 169 million dollars of new revenue to the state," said Bryant.

Glen Bolger with Public Opinion Strategies says polling results show more than 70 percent of voters in the state support a cigarette tax increase.

"A lot of people would be surprised by the fact that 53 percent of the smokers who use this product and obviously would pay more. And, one of the things we've learned from smokers is it's their way of saying please help me quit. If the price goes up, I'm much more likely to quit smoking and if I don't at least I'm going to cut back significantly," said Bolger.

Governor Phil Bryant and legislative leaders declined to comment. Ashley Norwood, MPB News.