Group Wants Higher Tobacco Tax

By: Jason Simpson
By: Jason Simpson

The primary focus of Tuesday's Healthy Futures Forum at the Boys and Girls Club of East Mississippi was finding a way to curb smoking among young people.

A tax increase on cigarettes was a popular topic among many of the experts.

"Tobacco-related illness kills more than 5,000 Mississippians each year. Our goal is to save those lives. We want people to quit smoking and the number one way to do that is to raise the price of cigarettes," said Kimberly Hughes. "So that's why we're involved in this, not to get more money for the state, but to get people to quit smoking, and to prevent especially young people from smoking."

The proposed tax would raise the price of cigarettes by 50 cents per pack. With that extra cost to the consumer, smokers would be forced to pay up or cut down.

"The increase in tax has a larger impact on people of lower income. Basically, they're more susceptible, more likely to quit and less likely to get started," said Dr. Robert McMillen.

The Mississippi Legislature failed to pass a bill earlier this year raising the tax from 18 cents per pack to 43 cents. That's why there is a greater push to educate Mississippians about why this group sees the need for this legislation.

"People didn't realize just how great the benefits were on this initiative," said Sean Courtney. "This is why we're doing seven community forums across the state, to talk about what it means in health care, human life, and dollars and cents."

The numbers show the reason that the work is being done:

  • 18,500 fewer smokers under the age of 18
  • Almost 15,000 fewer adult smokers
  • More than $122,000,000 in revenue for health care from this proposal

    There is no bill on the table right now, but when the legislative session begins in January, this issue will be lobbied in Jackson.


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