The Invest in a Healthier Future Coalition, a group of nearly 50 diverse organizations calling for a $1.50 per pack increase in the state cigarette tax, shared the following statement today after the Mississippi Legislature failed to pass a tobacco tax bill out of a committee in time for success this year.
“While we are disappointed this won’t be the year Mississippi starts on a path toward saving lives and protecting more of our state’s youth from tobacco addiction, we’re grateful for the discussion and attention this critical issue received. Thank you to those who joined us in support of a strong, $1.50 increase.
“The good news is that more and more Mississippi state lawmakers and businesses are now tuned in to the tobacco industry’s continued misinformation campaigns. Large numbers of tobacco lobbyists are hard at work at the Mississippi state capitol fighting against evidence-based policies that are proven to reduce smoking, save lives and save state taxpayers money.”
“We are up against an industry spending an estimated $127 million annually on tobacco marketing in Mississippi, targeting citizens most vulnerable to addiction with a cheap and dangerous product. But the support for change is there, throughout Mississippi. Our voices are louder and stronger together. We’ve come very far and giving up on the health of our state is not an option.”
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 $1.79 per pack.
Every state that has increased its cigarette tax by a significant amount has enjoyed a substantial increase in revenue, despite ongoing and tax-specific smoking declines and any ongoing or increased tax evasion. And the 2014 Surgeon General’s report stated, “The evidence is sufficient to conclude that increases in the prices of tobacco products, including those resulting from excise tax increases, prevent initiation of tobacco use, promote cessation, and reduce the prevalence and intensity of tobacco use among youth and adults.”
Results from the latest 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. The poll also found that a majority of smokers in Mississippi support the $1.50 per pack increase.
Smoking kills an estimated 5,400 in Mississippians annually, and 1,400 children under 18 become new daily smokers each year, according to the Campaign for 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 annually experiences $1.8 billion in productivity losses because of tobacco use. 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.