Health organizations urge Mississippi lawmakers to increase toba - WLBT.com - Jackson, MS

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Health organizations urge Mississippi lawmakers to increase tobacco tax

Source: WLBT Source: WLBT
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Source: WLBT Source: WLBT
Source: WLBT Source: WLBT
Source: WLBT Source: WLBT
JACKSON, MS (WLBT) -

Mississippi lawmakers will soon be facing budget choices. Some health organizations say they have a way to improve the health of the state and generate new revenue.

The big ask for lawmakers from these health organizations is to raise the cigarette tax by $1.50 a pack.

"You smoked a cigarette when you felt good," described former smoker, Ann Petermann. "You smoked a cigarette when you felt bad. You smoked a cigarette when you felt worried."

That was Ann Petermann's life for 50 years before being diagnosed with COPD and lung cancer.

"I'm living it. It shuts you down," noted Petermann. "It took half a century but it shut me down."

Nearly 23 percent of Mississippi adults light up on a regular basis. And every time they pay up for a new pack, they're paying a 68 cent tax. That's low on the totem pole compared to other states. Mississippi's tax ranks 39th in the country with the national average cigarette tax sitting at $1.71.

"Adolescents and young adults are two to three times more sensitive to changes in price of tobacco than are adults," explained Mississippi State Medical Association President Dr. Bill Grantham. "In fact, every ten percent increase in the price reduces youth smoking by about 7 percent and the total consumption by about 4 percent."

The hope is that increasing the tax will yet again decrease the sales and use of cigarettes just as it did when lawmakers last upped the tax in 2009. A recent survey of adults in the state found that the majority support increasing the state cigarette tax by $1.50 and raising taxes on other tobacco products.

"We don't see this as just a general tax that taxes everybody," said Katherine Bryant with the American Heart Association. "This is a tax on a product that is making people unhealthy. That is a burden to the state."

They estimate raising the cigarette and other tobacco product taxes would generate more than $200 million dollars for the state.

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