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Advocates Want More Strict Rules on Tobacco

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Advocates Want More Strict Rules on Tobacco
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Mississippi isn't doing enough to control tobacco use, according to a recent national survey. Advocates say they want tighter restrictions. Lawmakers disagree. MPB's Ashley Norwood reports.

Mississippi earns an F on the national "State of Tobacco Control" report card released by the American Lung Association. Advocates are hoping lawmakers will consider a statewide smoke-free law and more funding for programs to help smokers quit. Supporters are also lobbying to raise the cigarette tax to $1.50 per pack.

Amy Ellis is with the American Lung Association in Mississippi.

"When you increase a tobacco tax, research has shown that people will stop smoking. it will deter youth from starting to smoke from the sheer fact that not a lot of teenagers have a lot of money," said Ellis.

A new category on the report is called Tobacco 21, which identifies whether a state requires consumers to be 21 years of age to purchase tobacco. This week, Mississippi House Ways and Means Committee rejected a bill that would have increased the age to buy cigarettes and other products from the current 18 years of age to 21.

Representative Gary Chism is on Ways and Means. The Republican from Columbus says increasing the age limit is an infringement upon one's rights.

"If somebody is able to go into the military and defend our country, they ought to be able to if they want to use tobacco. We have so many rights being taken away from us, I'm just not for making it mandatory to be twenty-one," said Chism.

Diseases caused by tobacco kill 480,000 people each year, according to the American Lung Association.