In a press conference on November 28, 2018, at the Mississippi State Capitol, supporters from the more than 30 diverse organizations calling for an increase in the state cigarette tax of $1.50 per pack announced that an overwhelming majority of Mississippi is with them: More than 70 percent of voters in the state support the measure. The Invest in a Healthier Future Coalition is asking lawmakers to take action on this increase to help Mississippi save lives, improve the health of citizens and support the economy.
“The polling results released today confirm what we know and regularly hear in conversations with Mississippians,” said Katherine Bryant, director of government relations for the American Heart Association in Mississippi. “Tobacco-related illnesses are expensive and harmful for all of us. Yet, in Mississippi, tobacco remains the No. 1 cause of preventable death. Tobacco is an addictive and deadly product, and higher cigarette taxes are proven to help people quit and help young people never start.”
Mississippi’s cigarette tax is 68 cents per pack, ranking it 40th in the nation, contributing to the state’s very high adult smoking rate and low life expectancy. The average state cigarette tax is $1.78 per pack. It has been nearly 10 years since Mississippi last raised its cigarette tax, with the state missing opportunities to improve the health of its citizens.
Results from a newly released poll showed solid support throughout Mississippi for a tobacco tax increase, with every region showing support ranging between 67-78 percent, and overall state support at 73 percent in favor. Mississippians across party lines support a $1.50 increase in the tobacco tax, with 69 percent of independents, 71 percent of Republicans and 80 percent of Democrats in favor of the measure.
The statewide telephone survey of 500 registered voters, October 27-29, 2018, was conducted by Public Opinion Strategies with a margin of error of +/-4.38 percent. Glen Bolger, partner with Public Opinion Strategies, was the principal researcher on the project.
“Mississippi supports raising the cigarette tax more than the possibility of increasing other taxes,” said Bogler. “Support is wide and deep. We found the $1.50 cigarette tax increase is much more palatable than other options, with this being a policy that would save lives and help the state budget.”
Smoking kills an estimated 5,400 in Mississippians annually, and 1,400 children under 18 become new daily smokers each year, according to “Toll of Tobacco, Mississippi, Tobacco Free Kids.” Smoking costs the state $1.23 billion in direct health care costs, including $319.7 million in Medicaid costs every year. Additionally, Mississippi experiences $1.8 billion in productivity losses because of tobacco use annually. Meanwhile, the state spends just $8.4 million on tobacco prevention and cessation annually, far below funding levels recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The Invest in a Healthier Future Coalition says the projected health benefits from a $1.50 increase in the state cigarette tax make it a great investment. According to the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, and the Tobacconomics research group, the $1.50 increase is projected to prevent 13,200 smoking-caused deaths, prevent 21,700 kids under 18 from becoming adult smokers, and help 25,100 current adult smokers quit. Financially, the $1.50 increase can generate $169.7 million in much needed revenue annually for Mississippi, saving $987.8 million in long-term health care costs through adult and youth smoking declines. Every state that has significantly increased its cigarette tax has seen increases in revenue despite any resulting reductions in smoking.
The poll also found the majority of smokers in Mississippi support the $1.50 per pack increase.
“I quit smoking 23 years ago, after 25 years of heavy smoking,” said Ron Schnoor, Mississippi resident and former smoker. “I stopped abruptly after being diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes and am convinced my heavy smoking contributed to my health problems. But I’m fortunate it was not worse. I wholeheartedly support the $1.50 increase. Cigarettes are lethal. They are killers. This is a necessary step to save lives.”
To learn more, share your story or support this initiative, visit investMS.org.
About the Invest in a Healthier Future Coalition
Invest in a Healthier Future is a broad-based coalition of more than 30 organizations leading the effort to reduce the preventable death and chronic disease of tobacco use in Mississippi through an increase of $1.50 per pack on the state’s cigarette tax. Our vision for the future is a healthier Mississippi with fewer children starting to smoke, more people who smoke quitting, and increased revenue for the state. The use of tobacco products remains the #1 cause of preventable death in Mississippi. We can save lives, improve the health of citizens and support the economy through an increase in the state cigarette tax.