Push for tobacco tax increase continues at State Capitol - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

Push for tobacco tax increase continues at State Capitol

Source: WLBT Source: WLBT
Source: WLBT Source: WLBT
Source: WLBT Source: WLBT
JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

Nearly 23 percent of Mississippi adults light up on a regular basis. And they pay a pretty low tax compared to other states. But there's a push to hike the cost of that pack of cigarettes.

The idea of raising taxes isn't something you'll often hear a bi-partisan call at the State Capitol. But the tobacco tax seems to be the exception.

"This is a common sense approach to improving the health care in our state," said Senator Brice Wiggins. "How can we ignore that?"

Three Senate bills are pending that would raise the cigarette tax by $1.50. A House proposal is for a dollar hike. The state Medical Association says it's a win-win for the state's pocketbook and overall health.

"We know as prices go up, smoking use goes down," described Dr. Bill Grantham, President of Mississippi State Medical Association. "Also, it will increase revenues to the state for those who still do smoke."

They say raising the tax on a pack of cigarettes would have the most dramatic impact on teen smokers.

"We know that the youth are effected more by cost," added Grantham. "For every 10 percent increase in cost, 7 percent fewer youth smoke."

Senators Brice Wiggins and Willie Simmons both have pending bills to raise the tax.

"This tax is an investment that gives a great return in several ways," noted Simmons.

Wiggins' bill would earmark the tax revenues.

"I am not for tax increases," Wiggins said. "By gosh we have to improve health care and if we're going to do it, it needs to go to Medicaid and not into the general fund just to spend it on other things."

Governor Bryant's Director of Communications Clay chandler sent a statement saying, "Gov. Bryant is supportive of generating new revenue and stopping smoking and other unhealthy behavior. He will carefully review any bill raising taxes on cigarettes should one reach his desk."

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