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Cigarette tax increase deserves consideration

Can Mississippi afford to turn down $128 million a year? Somelegislators think so.

Experts say the state could generate an extra $128 million ayear simply by raising the tax on cigarettes by 50 cents a pack.The state could also reap $343 million in long term health carebenefits. In one of the poorest states in the nation, that moneycould be put to a lot of good.

As it stands now, Mississippi charges 18 cents of tax on eachpack of cigarettes. That’s the ninth-lowest rate in the nation, and43 cents below the national average.

The push to raise the cigarette tax does have support in thelegislature, and Rep. Jay Eads, D-Oxford, has filed a bill to doso. Rep. Jim Barnett, of Brookhaven, has also filed a separatebill. Unfortunately, both bills are given little chance ofpassing.

Why?

Because this is an election year.

House Speaker Tim Ford, D-Baldwyn, said last week that manylegislators will not want to raise any kind of taxes during thiselection year. ”I think there is sentiment for a (cigarette) tax,but I don’t think the votes are there to pass it.” Ford said. ”Ithink it will be on the table sometime, but not this year.”

Election year or not, we hope the legislature will give theproposed cigarette tax increase a fair consideration. The billshould be considered on how it can benefit Mississippi and themajority of her citizens.