By Jackie Hampton,
In a press conference November 28 at the Mississippi State Capitol, supporters from ‘Invest in a Healthier Future Coalition’ called on lawmakers to increase the state cigarette tax to $1.50 per pack. According to recently released data, an overwhelming majority of Mississippians agree.
The polling results released Wednesday show that 70 percent of voters in the state support the measure.
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. Its’ 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 coalition believes they can save lives, improve the health of citizens and support the economy through this increase in the state cigarette tax.
Katherine Bryant, director of government relations for the American Heart Association, is one of the 30 partners. She said this move can help young people not begin to smoke. “Tobacco-related illnesses are expensive and harmful for all of us,” she said. “Yet, in Mississippi, tobacco remains the No. 1 cause of preventable death.”
Bryant said tobacco is an addictive and deadly product and higher cigarette taxes are proven to help people quit and help young people never start.
St. Andrew High School senior Khalil Jackson, a member of the Youth Advocacy Board, said, “With me being from the latest generation of my family, it is my responsibility to make a decision that will have a lasting effect on myself and others.”
Jackson shared the story of tobacco and cigarette users in his family. He said his great, great grandfather used Prince Albert Tobacco, and later contracted lung cancer which ultimately lead to his death. He said his grandfather smoked Winston cigarettes and became dependent on its use. He told of other family members who experienced weakness and weight loss and emphysema all due to tobacco use.
Jackson, who turned 18 Tuesday, said, “Years ago, I made the personal decision to make my generation the first in my family to be tobacco free.”
Bryant said, “Jackson is the healthy future we are so desperately seeking.”
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 raised its cigarette tax, with the state missing opportunities to improve the health of its citizens.
Results from the poll conducted by Public Opinion Strategies showed solid support throughout Mississippi for the tobacco tax increase. Mississippians across party lines, with 69 percent of independents, 71 percent of Republicans and 80 percent of Democrats in favor of the measure.
Additional speakers tackling tobacco use in Mississippi included Angela Ladner, executive director, Mississippi Psychiatric Association and Mississippi Oncology Society, Dr. Michael Mansour, MD, president, Mississippi State Medical Association and Glen Bolger, partner, Public Opinion Strategies.