Advocates: New cigarette tax could reduce teen smoking
By By Georgia E. Frye / staff writer
Dec. 11, 2003
Anti-smoking advocacy groups across Mississippi are taking their case for a 50-cent increase in the tax on cigarettes directly to people they believe can benefit the most high school students.
In Meridian on Wednesday, representatives of the Mississippi and Lauderdale County chapters of the American Cancer Society, as well as the Mississippi Health Advocacy Program, delivered the message to students at Meridian High School.
They cited a study by the Health Policy Research Center at Mississippi State University saying that increasing the excise tax on every pack of cigarettes by 50 cents could decrease the number of student smokers by 20,000 in one year.
Levying the tax would take an act of the state Legislature and as lawmakers prepare for the 2004 session no proposal has been pre-filed.
Allison Terrell, communications director for the American Cancer Society in Jackson said while the tax increase still awaits sponsorship, she has seen some positive interest.
The tax increase on cigarettes, if passed by the Legislature, could generate an additional $4.1 billion in excise tax revenue per year and an additional $3.2 million in sales tax revenue, officials said.
In addition, the state could save an estimated $363.8 million in long-term health care costs associated with smoking.
Mississippi's current cigarette tax is 18 cents per pack and has not been raised since 1985. Forty-three states plus the District of Columbia have a higher tax than Mississippi. If the tax increase passes, Mississippi will have a 68 cent tax on each pack of cigarettes.
Nelson believes the cigarette tax may help other teenagers like her who are looking for alternatives to smoking.