April 25, 2009 - WLBT.com - Jackson, MS

April 25, 2009

Will the cigarette tax increase?

By Sheri Faulk

Mississippi's current cigarette tax is 18 cents per pack. So far the House and Senate have not reached an agreement on how much the tax will increase. Community leaders and health advocates are holding a state wide public forum to discuss why lawmakers should come together and quickly pass a significant increase.

With the debate over an increase in Mississippi's cigarette tax still at hand representatives of the community for a clean bill of health are hosting a series of public forums throughout the state about why an additional tax should be supported. 

Kimberly Hughes, the Gov't Relations Director for the American Cancer Society said, "The legislature has taken a break the House and the Senate have not been able to compromise on an amount for that cigarette tax increase so we have utilized the break that they have taken to go throughout the state and continue to educate the community on the need for a cigarette tax."

A tax lawmakers are hoping will offset the approximately $30 million dollars needed to fund the car tag shortfall .

Representative Percy Watson said, "We will have an increase in this tax the only question is the amount of that increase."

Representative Percy Watson as well as Senator Billy Hudson both support the tax increase and hope to have a final number that both houses can agree on by next Tuesday. A number Senator Hudson thinks will be somewhere between 64 and 75 cents.

"I believe there is 80 or 90% support in both Houses and to get this passed and I am sure the governor will be glad to sign it too," said Senator Hudson.

Lawmakers say the states health care system could benefit from this increase by potentially cutting down the rate of smokers. 

"It will save lives and it will bring health care savings all those people that are smokers that quit will cost the state less money in the long run," Hughes added.

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