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Health groups still seek higher cigarette taxes

JACKSON (AP) — Anti-smoking advocates are renewing their call for Mississippi lawmakers to raise taxes on tobacco products in the state.

A group called Invest in a Healthier Future Coalition told reporters Wednesday that they’ll again be lobbying legislators to increase the state tax on a pack of cigarettes by $1.50 a pack. Now, Mississippi taxes cigarettes at 68 cents a pack.

Republican legislative leaders last year considered higher taxes aimed at curbing smoking, but rejected them. Some lawmakers wanted to earmark increased revenue to cover state spending on the Medicaid health insurance program.

Advocates say 5,400 yearly deaths in Mississippi are caused by smoking and it creates $1.2 billion in annual health care costs.

Mississippi’s tax rate is about the same as Tennessee and Alabama, but lower than Louisiana and Arkansas.