Medical professionals in Mississippi are calling for a special legislative session to raise the tobacco tax.
As MPB's Mark Rigsby reports, they say a new tax would cut down on smoking, and generate money for infrastructure.
An increase in the tax on cigarettes by $1.50 per pack would bring in an estimated $166 million to the state each year, according to the Mississippi State Medical Association. They also say it would discourage nearly 50,000 people from smoking, and save one-billion dollars in associated medical bills. Association President Dr. William Grantham says the money generated can be used to fund critical needs, like infrastructure.
"For infrastructure, the way I would see it, you're still getting the public health benefits. Maybe indirectly, going to help the funding for all of our health care needs in the state. From a public health perspective, this is really huge."
Republican Senate President Pro Temp Terry Burton, of Newton, says he believes a tobacco tax should be used for medical cost, not infrastructure.
"Our infrastructure needs are great, but our health factors are awful. We've go to do something about that. If we're going to raise the tobacco tax, all money should go to that."
Governor Phil Bryant is considering calling a special session to come up with the solution to funding nearly $400 million in road and bridge repairs annually, but he won't bring lawmakers back to the State Capitol until the House and Senate can agree on a plan.