Patients, survivors, and concerned citizens gathered at the State Capitol today to urge lawmakers to stand up for the health of their constituents by increasing the price of tobacco products through a $1.50 per pack cigarette tax increase and parallel increase in the tax on other tobacco products.
The rally was held on the 42nd anniversary of the American Cancer Society’s Great American Smokeout and hosted by Invest in a Healthier Future, a coalition of more than 20 health organizations leading the effort to reduce the burden of tobacco use in Mississippi through an increase in the state’s tobacco tax.
“What started more than four decades ago as an event to get people to quit smoking for one day has now become a day to promote a way to save thousands of lives and prevent more young people from becoming addicted to these deadly products,” said Kimberly Hughes, Mississippi government relations director for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN).
Tobacco is the number one cause of preventable death nationwide. This year alone, an estimated 5,400 Mississippians will die from tobacco-related disease. The state legislature has the opportunity to help bring that number down by passing a significant tobacco tax increase to encourage current tobacco users to quit and prevent young people from ever becoming addicted to these deadly products.
“Tobacco tax increases save lives and reduce tobacco-related illnesses like cancer, heart disease and diabetes” said Ann Petermann, a volunteer for the American Lung Association in Mississippi, who is a former smoker and lung cancer survivor currently living with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). “Our legislators have a proven tool at their fingertips to help prevent illnesses related to tobacco and we strongly urge them to utilize it.”
Not only would a $1.50 per pack cigarette tax increase be good for public health, but it would benefit fiscal health as well. Increasing the cigarette tax by this amount will save an estimated $1.01 billion in long-term health care costs. And, by increasing the tax on other tobacco products to parallel levels at the same time, the combined new annual revenue from the cigarette and other tobacco products tax increases would be $200.61 million for the state. Mississippi currently spends $1.23 billion on tobacco-related health care costs each year and experiences $1.8 billion in lost productivity annually.
When asked in a recent poll about specific changes to the state’s tobacco tax, most Mississippians supported increasing the state cigarette tax by $1.50 per pack and also increasing state taxes on tobacco products other than cigarettes. Mississippians across political affiliations were also more likely to vote for a candidate that supports the state cigarette tax.
“As a public health professional, I would welcome an extra incentive from our legislators to help my patients take that important step to a healthier life,” Dr. Bill Grantham, Mississippi State Medical Association president. “A tobacco tax increase will truly save lives in Mississippi.”
This post was written by Denise Dunlap with the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network and shared by the American Heart Association. Both organizations are members of Invest in a Healthier Future, a broad-based coalition of organizations. The campaign's 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.